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Judaism in Marcel Proust

Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Perspectives in Art

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Bette H. Lustig

Through detailed in-depth exegeses of Proust’s literary texts (A la Recherche du temps perdu, Jean Santeuil, and Contre Sainte-Beuve), Judaism in Marcel Proust: Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Perspectives in Art explains anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism as present in actual French literary texts. Unlike other studies about Proust and Judaism, the narrative in this book is in English; the focus is on the actual French texts, not on Proust’s biography. Primary Judaic sources such as the Hebrew Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, Moses Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, and Rashi’s commentaries illuminate Proust’s texts and skillfully demonstrate their anti-Semitic and philo-Semitic subtexts.
The principal Proustian themes that are examined in depth include, first of all, the anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism of the characters as informed by Jean-Paul Sartre’s Réflexions sur la queston juive; second, Christian interpretations of Judaic biblical references and their anti-Semitic connotations as well as the philo-Semitic references to the Hebrew Bible and to Judaic culture and ritual contained in the Proust texts; third, the importance of references to art in Proust’s texts and their Judaic significance.
Written in a lively, clear, and accessible style, Judaism in Marcel Proust engages the reader, both Proustophile and Proust scholar alike. It would be an excellent choice for the reading list of courses on Proust as well as for French history and social psychology courses on anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism relating to the Dreyfus case and the Belle Epoque.

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Chapter 1 Anti-Semite and Philo-Semite 5

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Chapter 1 Anti-Semite and Philo-Semite I In the wake of World War II Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in Réflexions sur la question juive (1946): On reproche aujourd’hui aux Juifs d’exercer des métiers improductifs, sans qu’on se rende compte que leur apparente autonomie au sein de la nation vient de ce qu’on les a cantonnés dans ces métiers en leur interdisant tous les autres. Ainsi n’est-il pas exagéré de dire que ce sont les chrétiens qui ont créé le Juif en provoquant un arrêt brusque de son assimilation…on ne peut assi- gner au Juif un office défini; tout au plus pourrait-on marquer que sa longue exclusion de certains métiers l’a détourné de les exercer lorsqu’il a eu la pos- sibilité.(…)Ainsi si l’on veut savoir ce qu’est le Juif contemporain, c’est la conscience chrétienne qu’il faut interroger: il faut demander non pas qu’est- ce qu’un Juif, mais qu’as-tu fait des Juifs? (RQJ pp. 82–83) Proust preempted Sartre’s analysis of the social position of the Jew more than twenty years earlier. To elucidate the unenviable position of the Jew in a Christian society as depicted in Proust, we shall in our study first examine the two principal examples of the Jews: Bloch and Swann. We shall study them in the light of social auto-exclusion and externally imposed social exclusion. Bloch is stereotypically a Jew. As we compare the first two texts with the final text we may observe his natural...

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