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Book Reviews 173 of his pandering of the Shoah, or his missteps in the politics of the left. His own placement in the different imaginary Jews is much less interesting than his delineation of their history and impact. The trans-Atlantic trip leaves more of this shipment stale and out-ofplace. Here are events ofsignal importance in France that are consigned (too often) to small notes in our history books. The Dreyfusards, May 68 and the slogan "We are all German Jews!," the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Yiddish as a kitschigmemory, the French Left and its anti-Zionism, and so on. Even his reflections about the Shoah are in this context tightly bound to a Parisian perspective. The question is lively and important, but we are split here between tourist and therapist':""-and so somehow feel a greater distance. The task of making a bridge to our world and its violences for an ethics of responsibility, an ethics that arises after the Shoah and insists on responsibility for others and not only for ourselves, offers both more depth at the outset and more direct address to the American reader. Finkielkraut is a skilled writer, whose passion for the issues that matter in Jewish culture is well rendered in these two books. Robert Gibbs Department of Philosophy University of Toronto Paul CeIans pneumatisches Judentum: Gott-Rede und menschliche Existenz nach der Shoah, by Lydia Koelle. Mainz: Matthias-Grunewald-Verlag, 1997. 434 pp. In 1969, the poet Paul Celan took a trip to Israel which he had long considered but repeatedly postponed, either because he did not feel ready to visit the "Holy Land" or because he feared it would not meet his expectations as a survivor who first lost his home-the German-speaking, Jewish community in Czernowitz-,---in the Holocaust and who then in his adult years chose to live in exile in Paris. Less than a year after his trip to Israel, Celan committed suicide. Because his suicide followed so soon after his visit, critics have tended to identify it as a decisive moment in his biography, a moment which represents the culmination of his work and which explains why he took his life. The interpretation of this visit has invariably taken one of two forms, each of which resembles a sentimental narrative. Either the troubled poet, haunted by the events ofthe past, found the serenity in Israel to lay down his pen or, alternatively, the trip there served only to accentuate his sense of homelessness insofar as the holy land could not replace his lost homeland, Czernowitz. Both interpretations of this trip are based on speculations which reveal more about the agenda of the critic than Celan's poems; specifically, they reveal the teleological direction critics have sought to give Celan's work, so that it can be conceived as a progression toward a close. One fact that remains irrefutable about Celan's trip to Israel is the interview he had on Israeli national radio 174 SHOFAR Spring 2000 Vol. 18, No.3 with Yehuda Amichai. In the interview, Celan not only affirmed his Judaism, but also intimated what Judaism meant for him as a poet: "I believe I can say that I am ofcourse a Jew ... Of course, Jewishness has a thematic aspect, but I don't believe that the thematic aspect suffices to define Judaism. Jewishness is as it were also a pneumatic concern" (pp. 66-7). Lydia Koelle bases the title of her recent study of Celan on this statement. Submitted as a dissertation in the Department of Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn, the study examines the religious and, in Koelle's view, specifically Jewish dimensions ofCelan's verse which, she suggests, cannot be accounted for in a literary reading, but which require a theological approach (p. 56). Her distinction between literary criticism and theology derives in part from the German academic system where disciplines are distinguished from one another not only on the basis oftheir methodology , but also their subject matter. The question, nonetheless, remains in the case of Koelle's book what a theological reading ofCelan's work is and how the subject matter of such a reading differs from that of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 173-176
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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