How Should We Read Agamben’s Muselmanner?


Last month, I had a bit of a back and forth over here in which I shared the same sort of reservations as Monica regarding Agamben’s “norming” of the Muselman in his book,  Remnants of Auschwitz.   Over there she wrote:

But I am still not comfortable with saying that the camps have become the norm. The implicit comparison bothers me. Perhaps we might find figures in our world who have become like Muselmann for various reasons, but I fear that in allowing such a comparison to be made we forget that the Muselmann of the camps did not become that way because of any of the choices they made; their mental and physical breaking down was intentional, and it was based on nothing other than the fact that they were Jewish.

This has been sitting in the drafts folder for a month, so in my non-existent spare time I reread the book.   I’ve shamelessly incorporated my comments over there virtually verbatim into this post.  Just a er…confession of sorts.  Anyway, I think it’s rather uncontroversial to claim that in a good deal of “recent” criticism, that the Holocaust has led to a “crisis of representation” and a “troubling of theory” has become rather routine.   The continual complication that the Holocaust introduces into thought, whether political, philosophical, aesthetic, ethical or religious, hinges, I think, upon the question of how this threshold may be made audible within language.  This is, of course, one of Agamben’s points throughout.  In fact, a case may be made that this problem is nothing less than the inaugural move of deconstruction that “exhausts the concept. ”   One only needs to have a quick look at Lyotard, Derrida, Blanchot, or Jabes to make this case I think. Continue reading

Agamben’s New(ish) Book.


Not having the extraordinary ability to learn Italian in a month, like Adam Kotsko, and I am not being sarcastic here, learning languages is not something that comes easy to the mere mortal like myself, I have finally purchased the book in French translation. Since Kotsko already successfully summarized the content for the masses, a great achievement, I say, again, without a hint of sarcasm (but, apparently, with a lot of commas), I am eager to read the book, yet I wonder if there is an English translation in the works? Or Russian? Anyone? There is a German translation with its awesome-sounding title – Das Reich und die Herrlichkeit – but I bet Russian translation will appear much later than English, there doesn’t seem to be much market for that type of books there…