Culture - Literature

Starting this week, K. is publishing in several installments a long interview with Daniel Mendelsohn. The great American writer, who became famous with The Lost, is the author of a rich body of work in which various traditions (classical, Jewish and American traditions, among others) intersect and the art of storytelling fuses with scholarly analysis. Déborah Bucchi and Adrien Zirah, who conducted the interview, examine some of the most singular and ambitious elements of Mendelsohn’s oeuvre in this introduction. Bucchi and Zirah situate his work at the crossroads between auto-fiction and mythic dialogue.

Yehoshua died on Tuesday, June 14, at the age of 85. We feel that we are nearing the end of an era. The one of Aharon Appelfeld (1932-2018), Amos Oz (1938-2018) and A.B. Yehoshua (1936-2022), who embodied a generation of Israeli literature. They were not only great writers. This generation also represented the moral conscience of a nation that they saw come to birth.

Last May, Gallimard published Guerre, the first of Céline’s unpublished manuscripts, missing since the end of the war and now available again after a rocky history that is still largely undisclosed. A specialist of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Philippe Roussin comes back to K. on the project of editing Céline’s lost manuscripts, a problematic work but whose goal is elsewhere. For in the end, it is always Céline’s status as a literary legend that is at stake, at the cost of an enterprise of erasure and rewriting aimed at reintegrating the author into the national pantheon and turning him into a cash machine.

2022 marks the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death. For the occasion, the “Jewish side” of the author of In Search of Lost Time is the focus of unprecedented attention. The Museum of Jewish Art and History (mahJ) in Paris is showcasing an exhibition “Marcel Proust. Du côté de la mère” (on display through 28 August), whose principal academic advisor is Antoine Compagnon. The professor at the Collège de France has published a book entitled Marcel Proust du côté juif (Marcel Proust: From the Jewish Side) devoted to analyses of the work that have focused on its “Jewish” aspect. After reading this excellent work, Milo Lévy-Bruhl presents Proust from a new angle: as a product of the competing impulses in modern Judaism of return and emancipation.

K. publie cette semaine un entretien réalisé par Antoine Nastasi avec Aharon Appelfeld en 2010, paru initialement dans la revue Esquisse(s). Nous avons demandé à Valérie Zenatti – sa traductrice française – de le lire et de le présenter. Elle nous a livré ce texte sur les langues d’Appelfeld, ou, autrement dit, sur la tension qui traverse le grand écrivain entre l’allemand, sa langue maternelle mais aussi celle des bourreaux, et l’hébreu, sa langue d’adoption dans laquelle il a construit une œuvre que sa mère n’aurait pas pu lire….

Israeli novelist and poet Aharon Appelfeld, born on February 16, 1932 in Jadova (near Czernowitz, then in Romania, now in Ukraine) and deceased in 2018 in Israel, never ceased to “translate” his experience as a child who survived the destruction of the Jews of Europe. We are pleased to publish in K. the interview – never translated in English – conducted by Antoine Nastasi in 2010. In it, Appelfeld speaks of writing and words, of the Hebrew “which has shaped the character of the Jewish people” and delves into his own linguistic travels, from the mother tongue of German to the adopted language of Hebrew, in passing by Yiddish.

Barbara Honigmann portrays the writer Jakob Wassermann (1873-1934), who expresses the unease of a generation at the beginning of the twentieth century at the idea of being both Jewish and German – or of not really being either one or the other. Wassermann said he believed in a possible symbiosis of the two identities, while deploring the condition of the Western Jew of his time, cut off from his past. Barbara Honigmann’s text plunges us into the heart of a tension experienced as an internal tug of war.

Born in Germany, from which she fled to London, the narrator of “The Appointment” pours out her heart while being examined by her gynecologist, Dr. Seligman. Resolutely provocative, mixing sexual fantasies about Hitler with sharp insights into our contemporary society, the novel is a satirical parable over which the shadow of Philip Roth, Woody Allen and Thomas Bernhardt hovers.

Albert Cohen is most often considered a French writer, although he was born an Ottoman citizen and was naturalized Swiss. He died on October 17, 1981, forty years ago. This anniversary is an opportunity to revisit the figure of the man who was a representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine before focusing primarily on his work, which combines lyricism and an extraordinary narrative invention – not to mention a powerful reflection on Jewishness and Judaism.

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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.