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Finkielkraut, Alain


FINKIELKRAUT, ALAIN (1949– ), French author and thinker. After a short academic career in which he taught in France and the United States, Finkielkraut devoted himself to writing books, articles, and radio programs, many of which deal with issues of contemporary Jewry. His books delineated the problems of the Jew in the Diaspora from the cultural and social aspects as well as the problem of his link to Jewish history and to Israel as a central issue (Le Juif imaginaire, 1980; The Imaginary Jew, 1994). He has dealt with antisemitism, the revisionist historians who have distorted the history of World War ii (L'avenir d'une negation; 1982; The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide, 1998), and incitement against the State of Israel (La réprobation d'Israël; 1983), using a system close to that of the "New Philosophers" of France. His thought was also influenced by that of the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel *Levinas: La sagesse de l'amour (1984; The Wisdom of Love, 1997) gave a tangible dimension to Levinas' concept of the relationship to otherness as the constituent element of humanity.

In 1986 Finkielkraut became the youngest recipient of the prestigious prize of French Jewry, the Prix de la Foundation du Judaisme Français. In La défaite de la pensée (1987; The Defeat of the Mind, 1995), Finkielkraut sharply denounced the rise of relativism in Western liberal societies. The book had a great impact and got him labeled a "conservative" thinker. Two years later he published his reflections on the collective memory of the Jewish genocide and on the idea of crimes against humanity in the context of the Klaus Barbie trial (La mémoire vaine, du crime contre l'humanité, 1989; Remembering in Vain: The Klaus Barbie Trial and Crimes against Humanity, 1992). In 1992, after an intellectual portrait of early 20th century French author Charles Peguy (Le mécontemporain: Charles Peguy,lecteur du monde moderne), he published a selection of his writings relating to the Yugoslavian fighting of the early 1990s, during which he had supported the Croatians (Comment peut-on être croate?, 1992; Dispatches from the Balkan War and Other Writings, 1999). In 2002, the Second Intifada in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the rise of new forms of antisemitism led him to broadcast a weekly program on a Jewish radio station. While supporting a two-state solution and criticizing some aspects of Israeli policy, Finkielkraut took a strong stand against the penchant of intellectuals to call into question the legitimacy of Zionism and of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. In his 2002 chronicles (L'imparfait du présent) and his 2003 essay Au nom de l'autre, sur l'antisémitisme qui vient, he described how current hatred of Jews has adopted the fashionable Western dogma of radical universalism. Jews, asserts Finkielkraut, are no longer criticized for their cosmopolitanism: they are conversely accused of having replaced their supposed universal fate with what these new progenitors of antisemitism perceive as anachronistic and harmful efforts to persist as a specific human group, either as communities or in the framework of a nation-state. Finkielkraut came to be considered the most significant of young French thinkers who deal with current issues of Jewish existence.

add. bibliography:

R. Kimball, "The Treason of the Intellectuals and 'the Undoing of Thought," in: The New Criterion, vol. 11, no. 4 (Dec. 1992); N. Rachlin, "Alain Finkielkraut and the Politics of Cultural Identity," in: Substance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, vol. 24, no. 1–2 (1995), 76–77.

[Gideon Kouts /

Dror Franck Sullaper (2nd ed.)]

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