#97 / Editorial

Karl Kraus made his life a public affair and made public affairs the concern of his life, his existence being summed up in his positions, to which he gave a pamphlet and satirical form like no other. He was a star of the intellectual life in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1899, he founded The Torch in Vienna, a newspaper of which he became, in 1911, the unique funder, editor and author. This solitude was for him the means to create a space of critical speech that was absolutely free, radical and sovereign. But, after Hitler was appointed chancellor of the Reich – on January 30, 1933, ninety years ago this week – he wrote this famous sentence: “I have nothing to say about Hitler”. Nothing to say, Karl Kraus? How can we understand that this essayist remained mute when Nazism came to power? Julia Christ reopens the file on this silence which, as she recalls, had intensely surprised and worried the Austrian, German-speaking and more widely European intellectual world. But her reflection on the position of Karl Kraus, which can also be read as a fascinating portrait of the complex figure that the Viennese essayist was, leads her to the present day, on what is said and not said – badly or not yet – about Hitler in our contemporary Europe. 

Since the last Israeli elections and the formation of the new government, the mobilization of the opponents has not stopped growing. It reached 130,000 people in Israel last week, and petitions are multiplying in the country. An Israeli perspective that supports this opposition is expressed this week in K. The great historian of religions Guy Stroumsa, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, intervenes here to tell us how the State of Israel has reached such a situation, and what exactly is at stake in the polarization we are witnessing.

Lastly, we republish Maxime Decout’s text on Albert Cohen, an uncommon novelist, author of a body of work which, from Solal in 1930 to Les Valeureux in 1969, including Mangeclous (1938) and Belle du seigneur (1968), should be understood as a vast fresco, a unique storm of lyricism and narrative dazzle in which the comic and the tragic are intertwined in a virtuosic and abundant game which places at one of its multiple centers a unique reflection on Jewish destiny. “Albert Cohen, Novelist of Totality” according to Maxime Decout.

Last week, ten days after we published his text on Vilnius, Grigory Kanovich, the Lithuanian writer of Russian language, died in Israel at the age of 94. Last summer we also published his long story “Poor Rothschild” (in French) in several installments. We send our condolences to his family, who helped us to publish some texts of this important writer in K. some texts of this important writer whom we are proud to have contributed to make better known.

On 30 January 1933, ninety years ago this week, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich. Faced with this event, the whole of Europe was waiting for one person to speak: Karl Kraus, a Viennese Jew, a radical pamphleteer and universally feared polemicist who had founded The Torch in 1899, a newspaper of which he was the sole editor from 1911 and from the arrows of which few of his contemporaries escaped. But Karl Kraus refuses to speak. Instead of commenting on the ‘event’, he tries to make all those who want to ‘talk about it’ understand why there is nothing more to say. Julia Christ examines the silence of the man who until then had always found something to talk about and gives an account of its significance for the history of Europe.

A historian of religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Guy G. Stroumsa – starting from the shock felt by many at the results of the last Israeli elections and in front of a government in which the extreme right-wing nationalist and orthodox religious parties figure prominently – reviews the new political situation in Israel. He emphasizes the religious dimensions of the problem and the difficulties that the history of Zionism has faced in its attempt to resolve, without success, the question of the interweaving of the religious and the national in Israel.

Albert Cohen is most often considered a French writer, although he was born an Ottoman citizen and was naturalized Swiss. He died on October 17, 1981, forty years ago. This anniversary is an opportunity to revisit the figure of the man who was a representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine before focusing primarily on his work, which combines lyricism and an extraordinary narrative invention – not to mention a powerful reflection on Jewishness and Judaism.

Vilna, Wilno, Vilnus. Yerushalayim of Lita. A dream city, flooded by the light of the Great Synagogue. A dreamy city, with mornings perfumed with cinnamon buns. A city of fear, with its forests entangled in fright. In a text never before published in French, Gregory Kanovitch – the 93-year-old Lithuanian writer who now lives in Israel – evokes his Lithuanian Jerusalem, now a ghost.

“My novels are a kind of Litvak saga, a monument to the memory of the Lithuanian Jews who have passed away. This is how Grigory Kanovich likes to describe his work. Born in June 1929 in Janova to a Yiddish-speaking Jewish family, he has published many short stories and ten novels, translated into many languages. Last August, in the form of a four-part serial, K. published the first French translation — by Elena Guritanu — of “Poor Rothschild”. At the beginning of this year, we continue the Jewish saga of this prolific 94-year-old Lithuanian writer with the story “I dreamed of Vilnius, the lost Jerusalem”, written as a tribute to Wilno, the Jerusalem of Lithuania. In the preface to this reading, Elie Petit and Elena Guritanu retrace his journey for K.

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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.