More people should read Sarah Kofman


I’ve been re-reading Sarah Kofman’s Smothered Words, as well as some of Blanchot’s recits in The Station Hill Maurice Blanchot Reader. In a volume of essays about Kofman, I came across this comment from J.L. Nancy (it’s the epigraph to the introduction of Sarah Kofman’s Corpus):

What interests me in Sarah’s work, and what knitted much of the friendship between us, is this manner of relating “works” to “life,” rather than the converse. . . . That writing relates to life, and relates it, does not mean the absence of thought nor even its secondary importance. It means that thought does not begin without this gesture of writing and also that, just as it is transmitted by it, so thought ends up with this gesture. But also that “thought,” finally, is caught up in life and relates to it, ending in it and therefore capable of ending it: there is no life after thought. A life of thought is perhaps a life that does not already live enough, or that lives too much, or again, quite simply, it is a life that attests itself, inscrib- ing that it took place.

Kofman was also a close reader of Freud and Nietzsche.  At her memorial (she committed suicide in 1994) Jacques Derrida described her love for them as “pitiless.”  Kofman wrote more and more about her own life, culminating in two rather different autobiographies. If you haven’t read it, Smothered Words, is as excellent as it is haunting.  Kofman attempts to “speak” the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust by weaving together readings of Blanchot and Anteleme, as well as the facts of her father’s deportation to Auschwitz. Equally as haunting is Rue Ordener, rue Labat, a more straightforward account of growing up a Holocaust survivor in post-war France. Anyway, I think more people should read Kofman, really.

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