Culture

Do today’s music lovers and discophiles feel embarrassed when they listen to recordings of the great performers who played, between 1933 and 1945, without any qualms, for the Nazi leaders? This is the case of Philippe Olivier, a music historian and opera specialist – particularly Wagner – for whom this question is not insignificant and who wonders about his own relationship with this musical heritage.

The history of relations between Jews and Ukrainians came back with insistence from the beginning of the war initiated by Putin. It is an essentially tragic history, which Boris Czerny revisits, but reminding us that it is not limited to acts of violence. Through the evocation of Dovbush, a popular hero of the Carpathians, and of Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, known as the “Baal Shem Tov”, he focuses on the web of linguistic and cultural exchanges that demonstrate the richness of the links between Ukrainians and Jews and that constitute the complex material of a common past.

The story is well known: Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy his manuscripts. Not only did Max Brod not do so, but he became the guardian of the writer’s memory, his biographer and publisher, the owner of most of his manuscripts – which he took to Israel. Who owns all these archives today? In his book-investigation, Benjamin Balint followed the events surrounding Kafka’s manuscripts, from the political and literary quarrels to the judicial outcome. Philippe Zard returns for K. to the story of a misheritage.

The impromptu arrival of the Netanyahu family one day in the winter of 1959 under the roof of Ruben Blum’s family causes the life of the young history professor at a provincial university in New York State to falter. But how can we understand this explosive event that American novelist Joshua Cohen stages without giving us the key?

In 1926, Samuel Schwarzbard assassinated Symon Petloura, the general-in-chief of the Ukrainian nationalist revolution, whose men were responsible for about 40% of the exactions committed during the pogroms that struck the Ukraine during the civil war (1918-1926). Paul Celan was born in Czernowitz, where Schwarzbard lived for a time and is now in Ukraine. Part of his poetry evokes “the widest of rivers”, the long history of anti-Semitic crime that links the history of pogroms to that of the Shoah. Yvan Segré dives into Celan’s poetry and questions, from it, a memory of the Ukraine like the gesture of Samuel Schwarzbard.

What is a Jewish writer? And how does one distinguish oneself as such? These are the questions that Henri Raczymow attempts to answer for himself: he returns to both his essential readings and to some of his books, to explain how – after the Shoah and, as he writes, having “lost his sources” – he has returned to his own Jewish history.

World famous since its adaptation by Walt Disney, Bambi, A life in the woods, was first a children’s story imagined, a century ago, by the Viennese Jewish writer of Hungarian origin, Felix Salten. A writer who was also a convinced Zionist and a militant anti-assimilationist. Starting from the author’s biography, Mitchell Abidor offers us another reading of Bambi as a metaphor for the life of the Jews in Eastern Europe, torn between the mass murders of the pogroms and the suicide of assimilation; far from a children’s tale.

“I like Sukkot. For a week, Jews are required to eat their meals in an ephemeral dwelling, in Hebrew a sukkah, which is translated, for want of a better word, as “booth.” This draws the curiosity of children and perhaps softens the hearts of antisemites. (…) A clever solid-fragile construction to which one repairs three times a day to eat, dining cart in tow. By temporarily settling outside while keeping one foot at home, inside and outside merge, primary and secondary residence are reversed. In short, you stage your own exile. And as I never manage to feel totally at ease where I am, hoping at each station that the next one will be the right one, this festival of fidgeting suits me perfectly.”

Tal Hever-Chybowski is the director of the Paris Yiddish Center – Medem Library, the largest center for Yiddish language and literature in Europe. His native language, however, is Hebrew, which is the focus of journal he has founded, Mikan Ve’eylakh (“From Now On/From Here On”). The journal’s novelty rests in its treatment of Hebrew not as the exclusive property of the State of Israel, but as a Diasporic language in its own right. Mikan Ve’eylakh’s two issues feature articles, short stories and poems by Hebrew writers living in the Diaspora. Macha Fogel, K.’s Yiddishland correspondent, recently met up with Hever-Chybowski to discuss his project.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.