Between Memory and Forgetfulness: The Janus Face of Michah Yosef Berdichevsky

Ezra Mendelsohn

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XII: Literary Strategies: Jewish Texts and Contexts

Published in print April 1997 | ISBN: 9780195112030
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854608 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Between Memory and Forgetfulness: The Janus Face of Michah Yosef Berdichevsky

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This chapter examines the literary writings of Michah Yosef Berdichevsky dealing with memory and forgetfulness. Berdichevsky's ocuvre presented here appears to be generated by a nucleus of paradoxes or polarities—“binary oppositions” in latter-day structuralese—that manifest themselves in the very earliest strata of his writings, and to which is constantly driven back in a quasi-Nietzschean pattern of “eternal return”: the individual versus the collective; Jews versus Judaism; fragmentation versus wholeness; intellect versus instinct. It is argued that each of these paradoxes may be viewed from the aspect of the primary paradox of memory versus forgetfulness, the impossible dual imperative: “Remember, do not remember” that lay upon Berdichevsky from the onset as a curse, albeit one that would spur him to extraordinary creativity.

Keywords: Michah Yosef Berdichevsky; memory; forgetfulness; paradoxes; binary oppositions; quasi-Nietzschean pattern

Chapter.  22508 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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