Mia Farrow and Bernard-Henri Lévy just finished a late lunch at the Carlyle Hotel, where the Darfur activists discussed what they should talk about during their two-hour “Crisis Darfur” panel at the PEN World Voices Festival tonight. They decided they would end their keynote by titillating the international media: a direct appeal to George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy to provide equipment and training for the 31,000 African troops charged with protecting the population of Darfur by a 2007 U.N. resolution. (Right now, the roughly 9,000 soldiers can barely protect themselves.) It took a while for an actor-activist (her) and a public intellectual (him) to hash this out. “What would be great is if we could end this with a conclusion,” said Lévy, adjusting his bathrobelike black velvet suit, open to mid-chest. “You know, not just another discussion of the atrocités, but a conclusion.”
Farrow launched into two ideas. The first involved embedding the Rwanda “never again” slogan with new meaning. The second, to request that superpowers partner with African troops. “I love your ideas, they are wonderful, and the second one is more concrete,” said Lévy, delicately cutting his Dover sole. “I would say to appeal to Britain, France, and the United States to, starting next Monday, have a training program for African military. We can phrase it in simple words, and even have a communiqué sent to Gordon Brown, George Bush, and Nicolas Sarkozy.”
Then they discussed which countries to appeal to. Lévy decided to stick to the U.S. and France. “Why not include South Korea and some Latin American countries?” asked Farrow. “Let’s address our own governments. If we begin to address everyone, the press will not take it.” (Lévy often is the press.) “I know that you do not have a reputation of being favorable to Bush, just like I do not have a reputation of being favorable to Sarkozy, but if we do a condensed, minimalist statement, that is difficult to refuse. The message will be relayed by the press.”
Farrow began dictating a statement. Lévy, who prefers to compose in his native tongue, began dictating a statement in French to his agent. Voilà. It will be read tonight during their PEN World Voices Panel at the Alliance Français.
Lévy rushed off for a radio interview, and Farrow departed for the rest of what she jokingly called Levy Day — a dentist appointment with a Dr. Levy in midtown, and then off to meet Lévy again, for a pre-speech rendezvous. —Arianne Cohen
Crisis Darfur: A Conversation With Mia Farrow and Bernard-Henri Lévy [PEN American Center]