When the philosopher Theodor Adorno met Gershom Scholem, he thought that he “gave the impression of a Bedouin prince.” Their lifetime of letters orbits their shared love of their brilliant, doomed friend Walter Benjamin.
Amid the ferment of interwar Poland, two opposite motions guided Jews who followed the sometimes blinding torches that lit the way toward modern culture. The first surged outward. The second traveled inward.
Benjamin Balint and JRB editor Abe Socher discuss the international legal battle over Franz Kafka’s unpublished papers, as well as the libraries and book collections of Jerusalem that few people know about.
Raised in an assimilated German-speaking family and baptized as a Protestant at age 12, Adler had seemed destined for a stellar literary career as an heir to the Prague Circle, a group of German-language writers that included Kafka, Max Brod, and the philosopher Hugo Bergmann. His imprisonment in Theresienstadt changed the arc of his career and gave us some of the most powerful testimony about the inner life of the camps that has ever been written.
Romain Gary—a Lithuanian Jew who regarded himself a Frenchman par excellence—emerges in a recent memoir as a master of self-invention and (just as immoderate) verbal invention, a chameleon of pseudonyms, a man of irreconcilable contradictions, divided against himself.