The “accidental” does not seem to have any place in modern literary theory. In narrative, everything is meant to have a function and therefore signify. Indeed, contingency, fortuitous coincidences, belongs rather to the domain of hermeneutics and interpretive projections.

The Book of Esther confronts us with such a kind of “causality” which is both plausible and “unexpected.” It tells the story of an extermination plot in Ahasuerus’ court, which is finally undone via an “astonishingly” favorable series of circumstances.

Still, the text remains silent about the presumed logic of these coincidences. It simply points out a concomitancy of events, without indicating any superior intelligibility. More generally speaking, both Midrash and Talmud insist on these textual “signs” being opaque and deceiving — as if the rabbis wished to raise the (literary) devices of ambiguity to an ontological level, and open with the Book of Esther an enigmatic, essentially ambivalent, hermeneutics of destiny.


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