#73 / Editorial


There is nothing like an inferno to rouse men from a summertime torpor. France has been treated to a series of forest fires in the past month, sometimes touching popular holiday destinations. Bruno Karsenti sees another conflagration on the horizon, and he analyzes a new type of arson. The scene is the country’s National Assembly. The pyromaniacs are lawmakers from the radical left France Insoumise (LFI) party, who recently introduced a resolution calling Israel an Apartheid state. LFI’s behavior, he argues, conceals a profound failure of the left in Europe, for which Jews and non-Jews will pay a heavy price.

K. had originally planned to devote this entire issue to reprints of some our articles on Marcel Proust. Paris’ Museum of Jewish Art and History is now running an exhibit on the Jewish roots and influences of the author. On June 28, our magazine hosted a soiree at the MahJ that included a private visit to this exhibit, on display through August 28. Antoine Compagnon, a long-time professor at the Collège de France and a newly-inducted immortel of the Academie Française, member of the scientific council of the exhibition (Marcel Proust. Du coté de la mère) and author of a book named Proust du côté juif (Proust: From the Jewish Side), deserves much credit for focusing attention on the Jewishness of Proust. We are reprinting this week three of our pieces on Proust and Jewish identity. The first is from our contributor David Haziza, who discerns in In Search of Lost Time the possible affinities with the Talmud and even the Kabbalah. Milo Lévy-Bruhl, in our second reprinted article, reviews Compagnon’s book Proust du coté de la mère. He examines how In Search of Lost Time was received by a rising generation of Jewish writers in the interwar period, including Albert Cohen, André Spire and Edmond Fleg. He situates Proust, the man and his family history, in the dialectic of emancipation and return that have cadenced Jewish existence since the French Revolution. Avishag Zafrani, in our last article for this week’s reprise, delivers a reflection on the visual aspects of the mahJ’s Proust exhibit. We stress that our reading of Proust as a Jewish author is meant to add to, rather than substitute for existing interpretations.

Last month, a group of almost three dozen members of the lower house of the French Parliament, the National Assembly, introduced a resolution labeling Israel an “apartheid state”. The deputies, hailing from the far-left France Insoumise (LFI) and Communist parties, set off a fiery debate in the chamber, as members of Emmanuel Macron’s government accused LFI of promoting antisemitism. Bruno Karsenti evaluates this latest controversy over antisemitism in France.

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)?

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.

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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.