Read the full interview with Menand here.
Among his comments:
On the difficulties faced today by human rights defenders:
"Because the enemies of press freedom have changed, things are paradoxically now much more complicated for us. ... How do you pressure religious fundamentalists? You can pressure the U.S. government over Guantanamo, but how do you pressure Al-Qaeda?"
On the recent parliamentary elections in Belarus:
"I am absolutely stunned by the way the last elections were conducted. The European Union thought there would be some progress during those elections, but there was none...Even before the elections, there was a temptation to say, 'Let's open Europe's doors a little wider for Belarus in exchange for cleaner elections.' This hasn't worked. I'm not opposed to dialogue with authoritarian regimes. But if promises are not held, we need to be ruthless, ruthless with sanctions."
On China hosting the Olympic Games:
"Have you seen a single [Chinese] dissident be freed ? On the contrary, a number of people were arrested before the Olympic Games to prevent them from meeting journalists. Why did this happen? Because of the cowardice of our democracies."
"The International Olympic Committee...tells us that it defends the Olympic spirit, the Olympic charter, which talks about human dignity. In reality, they don't care about human dignity! Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, doesn't give a damn about human rights, human dignity, about the Olympic spirit."
On the 2014 Winter Games in the Russian resort of Sochi:
"Of course, heads of states shouldn't go [to the opening ceremonies]. There's a problem with how the Olympic Games are awarded. [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin is definitely not a role model when it comes to human rights. And ecologically, it will also be a catastrophe."