On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and by Gertrude Himmelfarb

By Gertrude Himmelfarb

In those provocative essays, one among our such a lot distinctive historians appears to be like into the abyss of the current. Himmelfarb exposes the highbrow and religious impoverishment of a few of our most trendy present ideas--and exhibits how the trend for ancient structuralism has made it attainable to trivialize the tragedy of the Holocaust.

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32 Or perhaps one should read them as novels. ” To be sure, this may have unpleasant consequences, since the “realm of possibility,” as revealed in the novel, is unlimited and uncontrolled. ” Yes, it does, and novels will surely be written that portray Hitler as he saw himself and that persuade readers to sympathize with him. ”33 Kundera has not, in fact, written such a novel, and it is unlikely that he would. But Heidegger wrote books and delivered lectures that justified Nazism—and not only early in the Nazi regime but after the war, when the facts of the Holocaust were fully known.

Having thus absolved de Man of the charge of anti-Semitism, Derrida goes on to accuse de Man’s critics (his “prosecutors,” Derrida calls them) of being the real culprits—latter-day Nazis, in effect. ) of the Nazis by virtually “censuring [sic] or burning” de Man’s books, and who speak of him as a “propagator,” which is a code word for “censorship” [sic] and “denunciation” to the police. ” And it is their “war,” the war in the press, the war between de Man’s critics and his friends, even the war within de Man himself, that is at issue as much as the war against the Nazis.

Once the state has been founded, there can no longer be any heroes. ”8 Believing England to be the most modern as well as one of the most civilized of countries, Hegel would not have expected to find heroes there. But he might have found a species of hero in the Eminent Victorians—a modern, civilized, Anglicized version of the hero. The Eminent Victorians were not Hegelian heroes, and still less, for all their admiration of antiquity, Greek heroes. They would have thought it presumptuous to claim for themselves, or to have others claim on their behalf, the quality of “greatness of soul” (megalopsychia) that Aristotle attributed to the hero.

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