APPENDIX
‘The Jews in Contemporary
Literature’
Paul de Man, Le Soir,
4 March 1941

Vulgar anti-Semitism willingly takes pleasure in considering post-war cultural phenomena (after the war of 14–18) as degenerate and decadent because they are enjuivé [enJewished]. Literature does not escape this lapidary judgement: it is sufficient to discover a few Jewish writers under Latinised pseudonyms for all of contemporary production to be considered polluted and evil. This conception entails rather dangerous consequences. First of all, it condemns a priori a whole literature which in no way deserves this fate. What is more, from the moment one agrees that the literature of our day has some merit, it would be a rather unflattering appreciation of western writers to reduce them to being mere imitators of a Jewish culture which is foreign to them.

The Jews themselves have contributed to spreading this myth. Often, they have glorified themselves as the leaders of literary movements that characterise our age. But the error has, in fact, a deeper cause. The very widespread belief, according to which the modern novel and modern poetry are nothing but a kind of monstrous outgrowth of the world war, is at the origin of the thesis of a Jewish take-over. Since the Jews have, in fact, played an important role in the artificial and disordered existence of Europe since 1920, a novel born in this atmosphere would merit, up to a certain point, the qualification of enjuivé.

But the reality is different. It seems that aesthetic evolutions obey

-127-

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