Reluctant Theologians: Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes

Reluctant Theologians: Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes

Reluctant Theologians: Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes

Reluctant Theologians: Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes


Beth Hawkins focuses on the problematics of faith in the works of Kafka, Celan, and Jabes as each writer attempts to re-evaluate the notions of God and covenant in light of Nietzsche's "death of God" hypothesis. In Reluctant Theologians, she shows that Kafka, Celan, and Jabes offer their work as three unique instances of Kiddush Ha-Shem (sanctification of the divine name), as a testament to an illusory and elusive divine source that persists as the same time as it is being continuously reconstituted in the moment of writing. Hawkins also demonstrates that their works are connected to a newly emerging postmodern Jewish philosophy. Marked by a tension between specificity and universality, these projects look to sustain the particularity of Jewish experience at the same time that they explore how this particularity sheds light on a general condition of homelessness, exile, and rupture.


Whither is God? I will tell you. We have killed him—you
and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this?
How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge
to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing
when we unchained this earth from its sun? Wither is it
moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all
suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, side
ward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or
down? Are we not straying through an infinite nothing?
Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not be
come colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do
we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear
nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are
burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine
decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God
remains dead. and we have killed him.

—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 125

The "DEATH of GOD" as transitional SPACE:
locating kafka, celan, and JABÈS

When Nietzsche's madman frantically proclaimed, "God is dead…. and we have killed him," he indicated that the foundations of absolute morality were shattered. With this proclamation, Nietzsche connected human guilt and responsibility with a kind of freedom representing at once dizzying possibility and hysteria. This succinct diagnosis set into motion a number of responses, leading directly to Freud's rejection of religion as a collective neurosis and perhaps not so directly to theologically minded philosophers such as Buber, Levinas, and Ricoeur. Indeed, each philosopher following Nietzsche has had to contend, in some form, with the death-blow that was delivered on the already weakened state of Western metaphysics.

Those who agree only partially with Nietzsche—that is, those who . . .

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