#58 / Editorial


Once again, France has had a narrow escape. The far right will not represent and govern the country. Thus, it is with a certain relief that we welcome the re-election of Emmanuel Macron. But relief, in this case, leaves a bitter taste. It is similar to the feeling you get when you get home after driving drunk and, as soon as you close the door, you tell yourself that the game is not worth the risk, that this is the last time: you will be careful not to have this kind of false enthusiasm, anxiety, tension, guilt or even a feeling of self-destruction in the future. And yet, deep down, we also know that we will do it again, since it is more unpleasant to stay sober for a whole evening than to spend a bad half hour, and it is more difficult to change friends than to stay with the friendly one who encourages you to drink. 42% of French people voted for Marine Le Pen. Almost 30% abstained. The figures are staggering. Some 14 million French people may have wanted a far-right president. 14 million French people who are not only part of our lives, but who we are likely to see again in five years’ time. Not because they are impenitent and unteachable, but because there are no signs of clear political change on the horizon. In short, relief, like that of the falsely repentant drinker, is likely to be without consequences.

The Jews, on the other hand, are the last to be relieved at the moment. Worried about the results, they are perhaps even more worried about the next five years and the missed chances of reversing the situation. “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools” was the saying in the German social democracy of the 1890s, a social democracy whose name at that time was not misleading. Faced with the damage caused by the liberalism of the time, the anti-Semites were the ones who kept asking “Who?”. Galvanised by their badly asked question, they found the Jews to be their favourite target. They fantasised that it would finally be possible to act on them. If we attacked them, they said, everything would be better for everyone. The social-democratic answer to this reactionary outburst was simple. The effort required is the creation of a society that truly benefits everyone, that responds to the demands for justice that arise not only from individuals, but also from the groups that make up that society, so that the longed-for collective control over the common life can truly be fulfilled. We are still here. As long as we do not reorient ourselves in this direction, we fear that the polarisation that has been growing in recent years will become even stronger, and that, at every extreme, the Jews will be the recurrent targets of the disturbing and raging question “Who?”, a question to which the recent crises have provided such fertile ground.

With this in mind, K. is publishing three short stories this week, each of which, in its own way, bears witness to a persistent Jewish anxiety in an apparently smooth and peaceful world. Marianne Rubinstein’s story is concerned with a muffled threat, perhaps imaginary, but definitely felt; Nathalie Azoulai’s story is about the prospect of a terminal disappearance of Jewish memory. And finally, in Sam Sussman’s short story, anxiety is converted into dark irony in the ironic account of a Jewish American student travelling to Eastern Europe, where crime engulfed a part of his ancestors, whose memory appears to him to be sick, woven with false compassion.



“The three of them are at Paris’ Gare du Nord on a cold morning: the Father, the Mother, and the Child. The Child was going to England, for a vacation of language learning.
It’s February. If you can’t ski, what else is there to do? …” >>>

“At the dawn of a new century or was it a millennium? — we don’t know, Kate Stevenson found a large metal box on a beach. Had she gone to explore the shores of the Baltic, the Caspian or the Adriatic? The story doesn’t say. She might have been just walking on a beach in Cornwall, a few miles from her home.” >>>

“As her fingers gripped my skin I was already packing my belongings in the Oranienstraße studio, finding a cheap flight across the channel that Hitler failed to cross, and sitting down at my desk in Oxford to make sense of this comedy of errors. But I knew that even after I slipped from Christine’s life she and Ingrid and Klaus would always be able to say, “Oh yes, Christine dated a nice Jewish boy once…” I could not let her possess me as an object as fastidiously placed as the tea cups and history books in her apartment.”

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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.