#1 / Editorial

This magazine began as a concept in search of a name. Prior to settling on K, we referred to our nascent review as The Jewish Question. The expression, which entered the lexicon of social theorists in the nineteenth century, refers to the complex set of issues raised in Europe by Jewish emancipation. Formulated by Bruno Bauer (1843) and then reflected on by Karl Marx (1844), the “Jewish Question” could in fact be viewed as two questions: what was to be done about a Jewish minority seen as insistent on remaining “a nation within a nation” and how could one overcome the refusal of wide swathes of European society to recognize Jews as equal citizens? The Jewish Question, in the renderings of French and German, la question juive and die Judenfrage, served as a shorthand for this conundrum. The term can no longer be used in the wake of the Holocaust, which was intended as the Nazis’ Final Solution to that question.

The quest for the right title drew us to consider the great fiction writers of modern Jewish literature. History had forced us to retreat into the imaginary. Our attention fastened on the Joseph K. of “The Trial,” the “K.” of “The Castle.” Kafka’s stories returned us, however, to the world of the historical. The K. of “The Castle” searches in vain for the castle. Might we read K.’s peregrinations as a parable for the Jews and Europe?

We are at once haunted and fascinated by that prospect. Several of the texts in our first issue raise it in their own way. The interview with demographer Sergio della Pergola, in particular, seems pertinent to the question. He is a chronicler of European Jewish decline, noting that around 1880, European Jews represented 90 percent of the world’s Jews; today, they represent only nine percent.

We have seen the castle recede into the distance and darkness, but nonetheless we press on in our quest. This ambivalence – a commitment to the pursuit of Europe and the knowledge that it could elude us – frames our opening statement, which reflects on the future of European Jewry. How do we reimagine the relationship between Jews and Europe?

Each week, K. will publish at least three texts: analyses, interviews, reportages, and sometimes short stories. We will tour Europe: there will be wide shots, panoramas and close-ups, overviews and miniatures, historical flashbacks and novel approaches to our current situation. The visit is free – though the tour provider will not refuse tokens of appreciation! Our tour will start in two languages, French and English, with the dream that it can one day be offered in all the languages of Europe. We hope that it will attract all Europeans, as well as our friends in North America and Israel, where the two largest Jewish communities in the world now reside – the 90 percent of today.

The Editors

Translated from the French by Daniel Solomon.

Interview with Sergio Della Pergola, who has published an extensive demographic study on Europe’s Jews. Europe was for centuries home to the world’s largest Jewish population center, and the community’s presence on the Vieux Continent dates to Antiquity. Around 1880, they represented 90% of the world’s Jews. Today they represent only 9%. 

We asked Jean-Pierre Lefebvre, the author of the most recent French translations of Kafka, what images and ideas came to him when he considered Kafka’s initial. He answered us as an astute translator and philologist, attentive to the subtle messages contained in names and words, and as a poet for whom Kafka’s work is a mental landscape to be contemplated.

Did Eugene Lazowski save 8,000 Polish Jews during World War II? Or not? Barbara Necek looks back at the history of a historical fake news that has become a tenacious legend that has continued to captivate audiences.

With the support of:

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