6
RESPONSIBILITY AND
AUTHORSHIP
De Man’s wartime journalism

In August 1987, four years after the death of Paul de Man, the German philosopher and literary critic Samuel Weber telephoned Jacques Derrida to speak to him about a disturbing discovery. Weber had just returned from a conference in Belgium where he had met a Belgian student called Ortwin de Graef. While preparing for his doctoral dissertation on de Man, de Graef had come across articles written by the critic in two newspapers, the French language Le Soir and the Flemish language Het Vlaamsche Land, during the German occupation of Belgium between 1941 and 1942 when de Man was 22 years old. These newspapers had been sympathetic to the German occupation. De Graef was well aware of what would happen, especially in America, on the publication of his findings. Weber told Derrida that de Graef had sought his advice on how best to handle the situation and hoped that Weber would also seek Derrida’s opinion. However, by the time Weber spoke to Derrida, de Graef had already communicated his discovery to other scholars in America – notably at Yale – and had sent translations of four texts to the British journal Textual Practice. Weber and Derrida decided to ask de Graef – who was about to start his military service in Belgium – to send them copies of all the articles in French that he had found, after which they would offer an opinion. De Graef sent them a selection of 25 texts with a bibliography of 125 further texts, which he could not send for technical reasons. Derrida

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