The Imaginary Jew: Le Juif Imaginaire

The Imaginary Jew: Le Juif Imaginaire

The Imaginary Jew: Le Juif Imaginaire

The Imaginary Jew: Le Juif Imaginaire

Synopsis

The Holocaust changed what it means to be a Jew, for Jew and non-Jew alike. Much of the discussion about the new meaning has been done by French writers of the left, but their work is a storm of contradictions. In The Imaginary Jew, Alain Finkielkraut describes with passion and acuity his own passage through that storm.

Excerpt

Like the German critic Walter Benjamin, who died in 1940, Alain Finkielkraut has succeeded in connecting Jewish culture with the central political questions of his day. The Imaginary Jew is an autobiographical work of cultural criticism that reflects on the unique dilemmas of post-World War II Jewish identity and minority culture. Born in France in 1949, Finkielkraut grew up as the child of Holocaust survivors, an active member of the student upheavals of May 1968, and a writer on the Left. This book is an intellectual autobiography examining his turn from leftist radicalism to a confrontation with his Jewishness, and the problems of defining Jewish identity in a postmodern age.

As the author of eleven books, however, Finkielkraut is arguably one of Europe's preeminent intellectuals, with a recognition that Benjamin never achieved during his life. He is a major commentator on European affairs as a columnist in Le Nouvel Observateur and now as the editor of the journal Le Messager Européen, which he cofounded with Milan Kundera, Philip Roth and others in 1988, as the Cold War political framework began to dissolve. What allies him with Benjamin are a concern with memory as a cultural category, and a lyrical and sometimes nostalgic style with a penetrating edge and paradoxical explosiveness that belie a kind of cultural conservatism. Memory, to be sure, is the crucial responsibility of the public intellectual for Finkielkraut, an activism rooted in the history of the European Enlightenment that his later books have sought to exemplify and promote.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.