#59 / Editorial


This week, K. publishes an interview – never translated before in English – with Aharon Appelfeld, which took place in 2010 in Jerusalem by psychoanalyst Antoine Nastasi and initially published in Esquisse(s), [1] as well as an text by Valérie Zenatti (The French translator of Appelfeld’s work) that can be interpreted as her introduction and evokes the main theme of this interview: Appelfeld’s very particular position in the middle of all his languages. When he arrived in Israel in 1946, where he learned Hebrew and made it the main language of his work, he “[had] only fragments of languages: fragments of German, [his] mother tongue; fragments of Ukrainian, the language in which [he] was immersed during the war; fragments of the language of [his] grandparents, Yiddish”. Valérie Zenatti mentions the “duel” that, as a result of this situation, takes place in him between German and Hebrew. This duel is also the site of a tragic tension where both the assumed refusal of the language and culture of his murderers and the feeling of betraying his mother are at play. In his dreams, he speaks to her in German about his adoption of Hebrew, a language she does not understand. The choice of language, of the work and of the truth behind the experience that Appelfeld wants to share, is the subject of considerable attention and reflection – it is the great merit of the interview that it makes them concrete – where it appears that the principle of economy that the writer aims to achieve in his writing is as if it were coordinated with his abandonment of European languages: “Writers most often try to accumulate words, details, and we see nothing more. The writer, in his weakness, seems to say: ‘Let me add more and more details so that the reader will understand or feel. This is a mistake, and this is the whole problem of European languages, which does not exist in Hebrew. In European languages, you have an infinite vocabulary and you play with words.” Hebrew or the language of the essential for Aharon Appelfeld.

“The occupation is anti-fascist and strongly condemns all antisemitic acts”, wrote a collective that occupied a building of the EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) from Wednesday the 20th of April to Saturday the 23rd of April in an “open letter” published in Mediapart (26th April 2022). We must point out that the word “youpin” [kike] and “long live Hamas” were written on the walls of the occupied EHESS, which – in the context of an initiative expressing, between the two rounds of the presidential election, the refusal to be “faced with a non-choice between the Rassemblement National and its candidate Marine Le Pen, the bearer of a fascist proposal, and Macron [or] the assertion of an increasingly authoritarian neo-liberalism” – raises questions. It also questions the selective sorting during the de-occupation of the place: “We erased the hateful symbols that we had the displeasure of finding on our walls, and would have erased them [the two anti-Semitic tags that were brought to our attention] if we had seen them”. Visual impairment? A malfunction in the cleaning service of the collective in protest? Our contributor Karl Kraus ponders the matter.





1 ”Interview with Aharon Appelfeld”, conducted by Antoine Nastasi in August 2010, in Jerusalem. Published in the French magazine Esquisse(s), Traduire, 17, Autumn 2020. Paris, Kimé.

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.

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….

Between the first and second rounds of the French presidential election, the voice of student protest made itself heard, first at the Sorbonne, then at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), where a building was defaced. The watchword of the movement at both institutions was the rejection of a binary choice between ‘fascism’ and ‘neoliberalism.’ But at the EHESS campus, where the students covered the walls in graffiti (much of it quite vitriolic), authorities noticed some antisemitic messages. The students explained themselves about this matter: “The occupation is antifascist and firmly condemns any antisemitic act. We erased the hateful drawings that unfortunately appeared on some of the walls, and we would have erased [the messages], had we seen them.”

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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.