Controversies by Alain Badiou and Jean-Claude Milner Polity In 2000, two of France's most important intellectual thinkers broke off relations. Alain Badiou and Jean-Claude Milner first met in 1967 during the "Red Years" in Paris when the former was a Lycée teacher and the latter had just returned from the MIT. Both were ardent Maoists. But as their careers in philosophy soared, their relations soured. Eventually they stopped talking altogether. Until 2012 when Philippe Petit asked the two men to meet for four recorded conversations, each lasting three hours. Now a new book of the transcript has been published. Controversies dives into the arguments between the two giants as they joust in a war of words. Petit - who moderated the conversations - has been careful to leave in a tone true to the general twists and turns of the spoken word. Chapters are divided into different subjects, from "An Original Dispute" to "The Right, the Left, and France in General". For the casual reader, the issues discussed in chapters such as "Considerations on Revolution, Law, and Mathematics" might prove testing; it is certainly dense stuff. Of more interest - particularly in light of the current Israel-Gaza conflict - is the chapter on "The Infinite, The Universal, and the Name 'Jew'". In 2006, when Badiou published the article "The Uses of the Word 'Jew'", he courted fierce controversy and was accused of anti-Semitism by some intellectuals. Milner - whose father was a Lithuanian Jew and who had lost family in the Holocaust - took particular objection. In this new conversation, linguistics dissolves into what is, at heart, a fundamental disagreement over the Israel-Palestine conflict. This spills over into a postscript in which the two continue their discussion in writing, addressing points they felt had not been explained in the conversations. Milner argues that in the 20th century, "Jew" became "a political name again, i.e. a divisive word": "As soon as the name 'Jew' comes up, the tone changes," he writes. In response, Badiou states: "The Palestinians are the ones who have had to flee, abandon their lands, witness the destruction of their homes, be shut up in ghettos and camps, spend hours to go from one village to another and get across walls." Given these circumstances, he says, the issue "isn't one of names that divide or unite" but of creating a modern state that can settle this war. When the war itself is raging, such semantics can seem futile, even self-indulgent. But if Controversies works at all it is because it veers from the abstract to the political, the conceptual to the concrete. For that alone we should be thankful a conversation between these two men took place at all.