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On Robert Antelme's The Human Race: Essays and Commentary

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Rescued in 1945 from Dachau--where François Mitterand, his onetime comrade in the resistance, recognized him among the thousands of quarantined prisoners--Robert Antelme set out to do what seemed "unimaginable," to describe not only his experience but the humanity of his captors. The result, The Human Race, was called by George Perec "the finest example in contemporary Fre Rescued in 1945 from Dachau--where François Mitterand, his onetime comrade in the resistance, recognized him among the thousands of quarantined prisoners--Robert Antelme set out to do what seemed "unimaginable," to describe not only his experience but the humanity of his captors. The result, The Human Race, was called by George Perec "the finest example in contemporary French writing of what literature can be." In this volume, the extraordinary nature and extent of Robert Antelme's accomplishment, and of the reverberations he set in motion in French life and literature, finds eloquent expression. The pieces Antelme wrote for journals--including essays on "principles put to the test," man as the "basis of right," and the question of revenge--appear here alongside appreciations of The Human Race by authors from Perec to Maurice Blanchot to Sarah Kofman. Also included are Antelme's personal recollections and interviews with, among others, Dionys Mascolo (who brought Antelme back from Dachau), Marguerite Duras (Antelme's wife, who tells of his return from Germany), and Mitterand. Also available: Antelme's The Human Race


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Rescued in 1945 from Dachau--where François Mitterand, his onetime comrade in the resistance, recognized him among the thousands of quarantined prisoners--Robert Antelme set out to do what seemed "unimaginable," to describe not only his experience but the humanity of his captors. The result, The Human Race, was called by George Perec "the finest example in contemporary Fre Rescued in 1945 from Dachau--where François Mitterand, his onetime comrade in the resistance, recognized him among the thousands of quarantined prisoners--Robert Antelme set out to do what seemed "unimaginable," to describe not only his experience but the humanity of his captors. The result, The Human Race, was called by George Perec "the finest example in contemporary French writing of what literature can be." In this volume, the extraordinary nature and extent of Robert Antelme's accomplishment, and of the reverberations he set in motion in French life and literature, finds eloquent expression. The pieces Antelme wrote for journals--including essays on "principles put to the test," man as the "basis of right," and the question of revenge--appear here alongside appreciations of The Human Race by authors from Perec to Maurice Blanchot to Sarah Kofman. Also included are Antelme's personal recollections and interviews with, among others, Dionys Mascolo (who brought Antelme back from Dachau), Marguerite Duras (Antelme's wife, who tells of his return from Germany), and Mitterand. Also available: Antelme's The Human Race

6 review for On Robert Antelme's The Human Race: Essays and Commentary

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex Obrigewitsch

    Robert Antelme lives, survives, and attests to (giving voice to the unspeakable, the unimaginable that remains) the fact that ethics is dissociated from morality, from morals. Justice is not manifest in the shoring up of debts, of "righting" what is "owed" in an economy of value; justice must be lived, forward, from now on in the approach of the future, by means of the relations to every other person; remembering the impossible that has shattered history, which cannot be properly remembered, and Robert Antelme lives, survives, and attests to (giving voice to the unspeakable, the unimaginable that remains) the fact that ethics is dissociated from morality, from morals. Justice is not manifest in the shoring up of debts, of "righting" what is "owed" in an economy of value; justice must be lived, forward, from now on in the approach of the future, by means of the relations to every other person; remembering the impossible that has shattered history, which cannot be properly remembered, and in so doing to refuse this possibility as one perpetuated and opened into the future. What should never have been forever marks us, wounds us, yet it cannot be reconciled by punishment - we must bear witness to its effects in the face of every person we meet, we converse or communicate with, German, Jewish, or otherwise. Opening the essence of the human, the absence of essence, the nothingness that remains outside of nothingness, overfull and indestructable, Antelme speaks the words of a neutral language which burn to the absence of this core without core. In the night, the darkest night, a word rings out. It belongs to no one, yet calls to each of us. Demanding death, refusing to die or to cease dying, it attests to what Antelme called the human, yet which severs itself absolutely from any conception of the human. The fault of the human, perhaps - never able to live up to this word, this nameless name. For even in the destruction of the human, this indestructable question, impossible in its remainder, resounds, continuously, pursuing us in the demand which we can only call, in the most passive of senses, ethics. An ethics which demands our perpetual adherence, our decisive response, despite the inability to answer, to bring to any end. An infinite demand, in our inescapable encounters with one another, with every other, both outside of and within "ourselves" - of every one who gives voice and visage to this improper word which binds us one to another in the distance marking our existence. Ethics - a word as insufficient as any answer we would make to it, in its name.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna Olsen

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elie

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mikko

  5. 5 out of 5

    E.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

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