#41 / Editorial


For the last issue of the year, before the release of new articles in the first week of January, K. is republishing three articles on three major authors of European modernity. It is perhaps Kafka who best encapsulates, in an intimate letter to a beloved woman, the tension that Proust and Améry also felt in their creative process: “Could you tell me who I really am? In the last issue of Die Neue Rundschau, The Metamorphosis is discussed. It is rejected for sensible reasons and says something like: ´There is something fundamentally German about K.’s art as a storyteller.’ On the other hand, in Max [Brod]’s article: ´K.’s stories are among the most Jewish documents of our time.’”A difficult case. Am I a circus rider on two horses? Unfortunately, I am nothing of a circus horseman, I am lying on the ground.” (Correspondence with Felice Bauer, October 7, 1916)

For all three of these figures, Jewishness is both a fact they recognize and a far from obvious fact. Something of this experience of the modern European Jew is refracted in these three authors and contributes to their reception. In “Kafka’s Sirens,” Bruno Karsenti explores the significance of the work of the author of The Castle for the younger generation of German Jews who took it up with fervor in the 1910s and 1920s. In “Proust, Talmud and Kabbalah,” David Haziza discusses a generation of writers and critics who, after Proust’s death, immediately saw him as a fully Jewish writer. This was well before all the studies that made Proust’s ambiguity a case study of the ambivalence of a part of the French Jewish population with regard to their identity at the turn of the 20th century. Finally, Maxime Decout returns to At the Mind’s Limits, the collection of essays in which Jean Améry, a survivor of Auschwitz, expresses his melancholy at the state of the European spirit that he saw disappear, with all that it contained of possible ways forward for the Jews of Europe.

What did Kafka’s work mean to the rising generation of German Jews who embraced it with fervor in the 1910s and 1920s? What experience of the modern European Jew was refracted for them in his writings?

While Proust was not raised in the Jewish religion, much of his education bore the imprint of a social and cultural Judaism. But can he be read as a Jewish writer? Can we detect the influences of the Talmud or Kabbalah in his opus, In Search of Lost Time (French: A la Recherche du temps perdu)?

Fifty-five years ago, in 1966, Jean Améry published ‘At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities’. In the preface he speaks of the “a gloomy spell” that prevented him from speaking for two decades, until the moment when “suddenly everything demanded telling.” This “everything” that wanted to be said is first of all a powerlessness: that of culture and spirit in the face of Auschwitz.

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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.