'No room for truth': On the Precariousness of Life and Narrative in The Last of the Just

Cohen, Josh. 2014. 'No room for truth': On the Precariousness of Life and Narrative in The Last of the Just. European Judaism, 47(1), pp. 15-25. ISSN 0014-3006 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article explores André Schwarz-Bart's famous novel, The Last of the Just, as the expression of twin crises in literary and religious representation. Ernie Levy's words, ' there is no room for truth here', spoken on the transport to Auschwitz as he cradles and comforts a dying child with stories of an idyllic afterlife, become the point of departure for a reading of the novel in terms of the loss of just this 'room for truth'. The article considers the novel's reimagining of the legend of the Lamed Vav in the light of Gershom Scholem's criticism that Schwarz-Bart compromises the legend's 'moral anarchy' before casting the novel in the light of Freud's remarks on traumatic dreams in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, as well as Emmanuel Levinas' ideas on 'useless suffering'. The last part of the article reads the novel's anguished theological motifs alongside Paul Celan's poem 'Psalm'.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


1 December 2013Accepted
1 March 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

26 Aug 2015 13:41

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2021 12:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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