January 12, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

Lévy and Houellebecq are leading figures of France’s modern intelligentsia, but they are only national treasures in the sense that everyone in the country would like to bury them. Scorned by the French public and media, the two provocateurs decided to examine all that hatred with this epistolary collection, Public Enemies, in which they assault each other, the public, and, most often, themselves with an arsenal of bitterly sarcastic bons mots. It is hardly what you would call endearing, and it won’t convert any of their detractors, but it’s utterly fascinating to watch them thrust and parry. B+

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