Sunday, January 14, 2007


Dear S.

It's a pity really I have to type this letter because I can't dictate you to anybody nor am I able to write it myself, usually with paper one's rather patient and can contain almost the whole of a person's life, like a "Buchlein". As you know by now I have to type because this is one of those ailing days in which one can hardly find comfort with himself and is watching the whole world as though he were in the tower of H., but the wintery tunes can just barely release the sights of the world and the mere stiffness of concepts starts flying across the horizons. As you suddenly ill in the lyrical age then perhaps you're alloted to see a little more but yet within your own boundaries. I didn't find it too satisfying you know... and had been pretty desconsolate myself until the little book of Rosenzweig appeared, that one which spoke about death. After I read it I think I understood better than ever how much we live in psychological times, the "self" age, as though Schelling had been one of our prophets.

Rosenzweig says in the little book that nothing can help dying, not even health! For as soon you enter the circle of natality (and you know from whom I've derived this expression) you're already dying, unless you choose death! (Although this might be already my actual own understanding of it)... "There's no remedy for death; not even health. A healthy man, however, had the strength to continue towards the grave. The sick man invokes death and lets himself be carried away in mortal fear. In health, even death comes at the proper time. Health is on good terms with Death. It knows that when the Grim Reaper comes he will remove his stone mask and catch the flickering torch from the anxious and weary and disappointed hands of Brother Life; it knows that he will dash it on the ground and extiguish it, but it also knows that only then the full brilliance of the nocturnal sky will brightly glow. It knows that it will be accepted into the open arms of Death. Life's eloquent lups are put to silence and the eternally Taciturn One will speak: "Do you finally recognize me? I am your brother"; I think it's a wise book in every respect but I don't want to give you the creeps with all this talk about death, nonetheless I think each one of us should read that little book.

Somehow I can hardly think of it as a Jewish book because in a way it speaks with a certain security that is tantamount to anxiety, E. insists nonetheless that there's no anxiety in Jewish Thought which might be certainly true for the Rabbis but never for Rosenzweig or Arendt, both of whom thereby there's a certain kind of longing, a certain Messianic anxiety and this is a kind of sorrow "sector" that I can't exactly equate with either Christians or Jews, but rather with the painful Christianity of certain Jews; don't misunderstand me since I'm not speaking about "converted" Jews, it's something I can't quite explain to myself, yet I'm not longing for it... It'd destroy a very treasurable mystery. Most people wouldn't understand it, perhaps Ivan is the only one and even then I doubt it, perhaps he needs to read Hegel a little, no less than I need it though.... This security doesn't come willy-nilly, because it certainly doesn't come from the theology of the "last things", firstly because this in my opinion had very little to do with Jesus and second because the theology of hope (like in Moltmann and Bloch) is a reflected anxiety, therefore it could only come after modernity. That security is rather the metaphysical "identity" (or let's call it ontological) that one finds in the theologians, like Duns Scotus and the poems of Santa Theresa or St. John, St. Anselm, St. Augustine, etc. It is different since Schleiermacher and beyond, but he remains very important too.

In the other hand the region of sorrow isn't entirely Christian, because it resembles too much the poems of Zelda, who as you know was a very humble Ultra-Orthodox woman who had very little to do with the "West" Jewish narrative, like Dan Diner likes to call it. It's a very confusing matter, specially because it's not possible to know these things in advance and the questions don't even come up while you read, they often appear on everyday life or in those crucial moments when you reflect upon certain works of art and are trying to make up your mind on the aesthetical aspects; at times there's so little you can say and then you can only weave a thread of Midrash and connect everything so neatly.

This happened to me today as I went to the exposition (not intentionally, but as I searched for that fish restaurant) and was faced with the painting of Habib Sasson (an Israeli artist, don't know much about him myself) called "return, return back, oh Shulamit". It had been one of the most impressive pieces I had seen, you know? There was a woman with black hair and a long dress kneeling down and two men asfixiating her with a rope around the neck and pulling to different directions; yet there was something very strange about the scene... she didn't seem to resist too much nor they seemed to attack her, it all seems to go quite smoothly and in the spirit of mockery, bureaucracy and without any sense of humour. If there'd been only one man then I could've understood we spoke perhaps about Moses and Miriam or even one of the tales of Elie Wiesel. The two men looks quite estrangely different and differently similar at the same time (to speak here making good use of Hegel) but the relationship isn't one that Foucault or Freud could describe; then I remembered the name of the painting "return, return back" which in Hebrew is the same word for "repentance" and for "finding a ground". I think in the end the idea came to my mind, it was a Kafkean macabre picture: The two men were Celan and Heidegger, already during the former's visit to Todtnauberg Shulamit was long dead, but she had not died, taking away the "region of sorrow" that was replaced by the cosmis emptiness after Celan's own suicide.

You should see that painting, I didn't quite make too much sense of it really. I thought about this some other person you know? But it's different, because both Celan and Heidegger loved Shulamit, but in this case the ark couldn't be more indifferent to the bow and one needs to be a little Hegelian to be engaged in such deadly games. I've been reading some of the letters from Hoelderlin to Hegel, they're quite interesting and far from boring actually, what I like the most is H's telling of his own frail health and his frustration, his lack of interest in things and his desire to return to that tower... just right before he lost his mind. I could read all that in his poetry, even though when E. said that my take on Endymion was very paternal and therefore Catholic. I think I want to redefine it as Greek, but I don't quite succeed, I shall not dare. I also have my own frailty at the moment, but before we shall discuss it I'll await your next letter.


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