# 70 / Editorial


« The lost identity of the immigrant family can only be recreated through a narrative. That’s why my grandfather was always telling stories about the ‘old country’, because in the ‘old country’ you were somebody. Everyone knew who you were, you had status, even money, you were in a context, a social context, a political context, but now you’re just one of the 22 million people who have come to the United States and you have to start all over again. That’s a story I grew up with ». Identity, exile, but also philology: Daniel Mendelsohn is continuing his reflection on his work this week through these themes. In this second episode of our interview, the most contemporary political questions also emerge, and we will find them again next week, in the last episode of this exciting conversation.

For the other parts of this week program, we are heading north! First, to Iceland, where researcher Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson tried last September to explain why his native country is reluctant to teach the history of the Shoah. The official Icelandic authorities may have made a commitment to initiate the teaching of the Shoah in 2000 and 2002, but the promises have remained unfulfilled. Iceland, where the paradox of a country with so much antisemitism for so few Jews : “The more I think about some Icelanders in relation to their Nazi sympathies, the anti-Semitic sentiments of a country with hardly any Jews, and the number of Icelanders who were willing to spy for the Nazis, I am thankful that Icelanders spent the Second World War on an island, far from their fascist idols on the European mainland”.

On the same latitudes, but further east this time, it is in Norway where we stop again. The journalist Vibeke Knoop Rachline recalls the “clause of shame” of the 1814 constitution, which was one of the most liberal in Europe at the time: “Jews are excluded from access to the kingdom.” An anomaly? Nothing is less certain. The European Enlightenment which inspired it was ambiguous towards the Jews. This ambiguity has been present in the history of Norwegian society since then.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s writing style is a skilful blend of personal narratives and evocations of classical literary works; of the intimate and the intellectual. What is the origin of Daniel Mendelsohn’s attraction to philology? What does it have to do with his family background made of tragedies and exiles, with the fact of being Jewish and gay? These are the questions that Daniel Mendelsohn explores with us in this second episode of our interview.

The Jewish community in Iceland is both young and very small. Yet the island at the edge of Europe has a rich history of antisemitism. To learn more about this apparent paradox, K. publishes a disturbing text by researcher Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson. He tells us about Iceland, its elites of dubious ancestry, its antisemitic undertones… and its few Jews.

Jews are excluded from access to the kingdom.” This clause, the second in the Norwegian constitution, approved by a large majority in 1814, has long been a singular pronouncement in Europe. For K., journalist Vibeke Knoop Rachline tells us its history – through the repeal of the paragraph in 1851 – and the trace it leaves today in Norwegian society and its small Jewish community.

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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.