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Showing posts from September 4, 2022

Eating the scroll

Something was started in the first three verses of Ezekiel 3: “ Then He said  to me, “Son  of man , eat  what  you find ; eat  this  scroll , and go , speak  to the house  of Israel .”/ So I opened  my mouth , and He fed  me this  scroll ./  And He said  to me, “Son  of man , feed  your stomach  and fill  your body  with this  scroll  which  I am giving  you.” Then I ate  it, and it was as sweet  as honey  in my mouth . “ The theme of eating the scroll, the book, the document derives, in the West, from the prophets. This is a radical reworking of the sensual spell of the book, with its obsessive visuality, into that most intimate of bodily moments, eating. The line: “Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth” is, to me, peculiarly moving. The scroll, the book, the screen on which I type these words, are all very dry. If they were not arid, they would not serve as platforms for letters. But the notion that the scroll’s dryness, which would make it repulsive, turns to some

Addendum to the protohistory: on an agent provacateur

Gersholm Scholem, in his exchange of letters with Hannah Arendt, accused her of being one of those Weimar leftwing Jews who objectively strenghthened   anti-semitism. Specifically, he referred to Kurt Tucholsky: “I cannot refute those who say the Jews deserved their fate, because they did not take earlier steps to defned themselves, because they were cowardly, etc. I came across this argument only recently in a book by that honest Jewish anti-semite, Kurt Tucholsky.” Surprisingly, Arendt not only replied that she was not an anti-semite at all, but that Tucholsky was not one, either: Besides, I am happy that I misunderstood your phrase about my belonging to the Jewish people. You mention the « antisemite Tucholsky, and if I undestand correctly, established a link between the two. In as far as Tucholsky is concerned, I do not at all share your opinion. An antisemite is an antisemite and not a Jew for whom it may happen, sometimes, that he expresses himself in critical terms on Jewish mat

A protohistory of the "banality of evil"

    1 I admire a certain kind of essay that takes a phrase or even a word and attempts to find the backstory for it. I’m thinking here of Carlo Ginzburg’s essay on Estrangement from the Wooden Eyes collection, or of Nicholson Baker’s wildly eccentric essay on “Lumber” in the Size of Thoughts – a terrible title, that is, of the collection, by the way. The cross between historically valid investigation and a sort of tarot where words are the cards you turn over is a difficult cross to pull off. You have to have a wide reading, the kind of physical sensitivity to words that most people have to faces, and an ability to bluff. The greatest instance of this kind of essay is, I think, Robert Merton’s investigation of Newton’s phrase, ” I have seen more because I sit on the shoulders of giants”: On the Shoulders of Giants: a Shandean postscript. The Shandean essay is my favorite kind of essay, obsessive, divagating, willfully obscure. It is the inheritor of Montaigne’s original essayistic i