By Martin Buber

“The query I placed earlier than you, in addition to earlier than myself, is the query of the which means of Judaism for the Jews. Why will we name ourselves Jews? i would like to talk to you now not of an abstraction yet of your individual existence . . . its authenticity and essence.” With those phrases, Martin Buber takes us on a trip into the guts of Judaism—its spirit, imaginative and prescient, and relevance to trendy lifestyles.

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Aus c h w i t z a n d l e v i n a s’s t houg h t I want now to turn from Stalingrad to Levinas’s discussion of Auschwitz. One of the many venues for Life and Fate is an unnamed Nazi death camp that is being constructed and used for the first time. Grossman juxtaposes what goes on there – among the events is the thematically important interrogation of Mostovsky and his reading of Ikonnikov’s letter – with events in a Russian Siberian labor camp, and all of this with Stalingrad and Moscow. As the novel develops, we readers are to find it more and more difficult to distinguish how life is lived in them and hence the culture, the mindset of living in these places.

Levinas could Chandler in Grossman, Life and Fate, 11–12. , 12. , 13. 9 10 Responding to Atrocity in the Twentieth Century 19 be expected to take this judgement very seriously, with its sense of loss and despair. But in fact there is no need to speculate. We are fortunate to have many interviews in which Levinas calls our attention to Grossman’s great work and to details within it. Let us turn to these themes and details now, in order to see how and why Levinas reads the book. First, a detail. In the novel, Krymov, an old Bolshevik and once husband of a daughter of the main character, Alexandria Shaposhnikova, is arrested and incarcerated in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow.

Do they provide a perspective from which that assessment would arise? Does such a perspective justify, contribute to, or elicit this assessment and make sense of it? Moreover, we can ask if his remarks about Auschwitz and Nazi totalitarianism fit the pattern of these remarks and, if so, in what way. Furthermore, I wanted to begin our examination of Levinas by looking at how Levinas’s philosophy expresses itself in and about the everyday world in which we live. How is it a philosophy about ordinary, everyday life?

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