Conversations with Emmanuel Levinas: 1983-1994Michael de Saint Cheron | Translated by Gary Mole $20.00
200 pages | paper | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0428-9
“Conversations has several qualities to recommend it, both as a study of Levinas's philosophy as well as a work of Jewish philosophy in its own right.” – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“Saint Cheron emphasizes the importance of Levinas's ideas about death, survivor-hood, the Holocaust, and holiness in his essays on Levinas. He is also skilled at prompting Levinas to reflect on these issues in his interviews. He has a gift for encouraging Levinas to apply his ideas to historic events.” – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“Saint Cheron's interviews with Levinas, although brief, have all the qualities that make them such valuable resources: Levinas is considerably clearer in them in presenting his ideas and allows himself more freedom to reflect on the implications of his philosophy for other areas of study. They are also fascinating because of what they reveal about his perspective on the intellectual debates and historical events that took place toward the end of his life. Finally, Saint Cheron's own interest in death, survivor-hood, and holiness, and of how Levinas's experience of Holocaust shaped his thinking on these issues, leads him to develop an interesting approach to Levinas's philosophy.” – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews"
"An ardent admirer and student of Emmanuel Levinas during the last decade of the philosopher's life, Michaël de Saint Cheron sat down with his mentor for these interviews, conducted in 1983, 1992, and 1994. Throughout, their conversations provide further insight into the key concepts of responsibility, transcendence, holiness, and the hostage for understanding Levinas's notion of ethics as first philosophy.
As Levinas and Saint Cheron discuss a variety of topics — death and time in the philosophies of Heidegger and Bergson, eros and the feminine, the Judeo-Christian dialogue, Levinas's differences of thought with Paul Ricœur, reflections on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the “end of history” with the fall of Western Communism — we can clearly see Levinas's ceaseless engagement with the justification for living after such horrors as those of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Stalinism, Cambodia, or Rwanda.
Included here as well, following the interviews, are several essays in which Saint Cheron presents his own further considerations of their conversations and Levinas's ideas. He writes of the relation of the epiphany of the face to the idea of holiness; of Sartre and, in particular, that existentialist thinker's “revision” of Jews and Judaism in his final controversial dialogues with Benny Lévy; of the epiphanies of death in André Malraux's writings; and of the radical breach effected in the Western philosophical tradition by Levinas's “otherwise-than-thinking." Finally, Saint Cheron pays homage to Levinas's talmudic readings in an analysis of forgiveness and the unforgivable in Jewish tradition and liturgy, culminating in an inevitable confrontation with the Shoah from the perspective of Simon Wiesenthal's harrowing The Sunflower and some of the contemporary reactions to it."
MICHAËL DE SAINT CHERON is the author of numerous works touching on the relation between religion and Literary Studies. He has taught at the Elie Wiesel University Institute of Jewish Studies in Paris and the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, and is the former president of the International Friends of André Malraux. The original French edition of this work, Entretiens avec Emmanuel Levinas, was published in 2006 and has been translated into several languages.