How can people ever respond to the horror of genocide? For those who have experienced it first hand and lived, the trauma is incalculable. There have been some who can openly respond in narrative. Readers may certainly be familiar with Elie Wiesel’s Night and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, or even Zvi Kolitz’s poignant literary work, Yosl Rakover Talks to God. These are compelling stories that evidence how the Shoah bears an infinite amount of meaning. In contrast, the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas portrays a different kind of response to the Shoah as an attempt to draw sense and meaning. Levinas takes up an almost biblical stance, like a prophet, to bring together phenomenology, ethical metaphysics and the Bible to rupture humanity’s complacency into an expiating responsibility for the other. Breaking open Levinas’ world, Seán Hand’s engaging little book takes the reader on a journey to discover the various contours of how a philosopher and Talmudic scholar ‘is dominated by the presentiment and memory of the Nazi Horror’ and consequently inspired to develop a messianic hope and language for the good to prevail over murder, self-interest and the totality of Being.


Emmanuel Levinas, Philosophy, Politics, Theology, Shoah

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