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Book Reviews Jean-Frangois Lyotard. H e id e g g e r a n d “ t h e je w s .” Trans. Andreas Michel and Mark S. Roberts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Pp. 144. Cloth $29.50, paper $12.95. Judged as a contribution to the controversy over Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism, Lyotard’s Heidegger and " the jew s” is a disappointment. It consists of a dis­ cussion of “ the jews” with reference to Freud, Adorno and, as always with Lyotard, Kant’s Third Critique, followed by a series of seemingly unconnected responses to Farias’s Heidegger and Nazism and more especially to Lacoue-Labarthe’s criticism of Farias in La Fiction du politique, now translated as Heidegger. A rt and Politics. Lyotard’s essay does not have the appearance of a finished work and it is clearly left to the reader to do the work of integrating the two parts of the book. But seen in the light of Lyotard’s own trajectory, the work has an importance not shared by many of the occasional pieces spawned by the current round of the Heidegger debate. Lyotard’s essay is more than the hurried response it at first appears to be. This is because it marks his commitment to bring together issues already broached, on the one hand, in the 1980 essay “ Discussions, or phrasing ‘after Auschwitz,’ ” which was subsequently incorporated with revisions into The Differend (1983), and, on the other, the 1984 essay “ Figure Foreclosed.” Lyotard’s essay concerns the non-representable, specifically the non-representable that he calls “ the jews.” “ The jews” are, we are told, not real Jews. This initial gesture is provocative because one wants to say, as David Carroll does in his helpful introduction, that “ the jews” must also in some way be connected with real Jews for it is their extermina­ tion which is at issue. And so they are, although one is never entirely confident about the apparent ease with which Lyotard sometimes makes the transition. He advises us that “ ‘the jews’ are the object of a dismissal with which Jews, in particular, are afflicted in reality” (p. 3). But is it true that “ One cannot wage war on the Jews; one makes them dis­ appear, annihilates them” (p. 28)? Surely “ the jews” are meant. And how could the propo­ sition that “ Every Jew is a bad ‘jew ,’ a bad witness to what cannot be represented. . .” (p. 81), not make one nervous, however guarded the context in which it is to be found? Borrowing a phrase from Levinas, Lyotard describes a people who have been taken hostage by the Other. The people are hostages because they find themselves in an alliance that was not negotiated by them, was not wanted by them and for which they feel them­ selves unworthy. Drawing on Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Lyotard takes this thought in a direction very different from that it has in Levinas. The Other does not tell this people anything except that it reveals itself as this voice and that it forbids all representation and naming of it. Unable to name the Other, unable to stage the original difference within the first representational economy of sacrifice, this people is denied that moment of the murder of the father that Freud regards as foundational for any community. And because they resist the spirit of foundation which is so characteristic of the West, “ the jews” cannot be integrated within the economy of the Occident, or converted to it. Nor can they be expelled from the West, even by extermination (pp. 22-23). Lyotard has long been concerned with the character of this attempted extermination which to be effective had to remove all traces of itself. Even if Auschwitz cannot be “ explained,” it was not “ by chance” that “ the jews” were the object of the final solution (pp. 80-81). The “ final solution” sets out to repress the other side of thought, even of occi­ dental thought (p. 27). Any memory would amount to failure. But given the character of “ the jews” as hostages to whom the Forgotten never ceases to return (p. 3), it would seem 162 Sp r i...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 162-163
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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