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Humanities and Social Sciences Colloquium - Julia Elsky (French Studies)


Exodus and Exile in the Poetry of Benjamin Fondane

Dr. Julia Elsky
Loyola University Chicago
French Studies
Junior Fellow

Exodus and Exile in the Poetry of Benjamin Fondane
When Nov 23, 2015
from 12:15 PM to 01:45 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, ground floor, large room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97362
Attendees universitätsoffen / open to university members
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When Benjamin Fondane emigrated in the 1920s from Jassy, Romania, to Paris he shifted from bilingual Romanian and Yiddish publication to publication in French. He emigrated to escape the rise of anti-Semitism in his home country and to join the cosmopolitan French literary world. However, the experience of the National Socialist occupation fundamentally altered Fondane’s conception of his life in France, from an already uneasy emigration into a sense of alienated exile. This change of perspective is reflected in his return to a form of bilingualism in his depiction of the exodus from Paris at the beginning of the occupation (June 1940). Throughout the war he made major revisions to his poem Exode: Super Flumina Babylonis, interlacing French with Hebrew letters and words, and transposing the Seine onto the shores of Babylon, to illustrate linguistic and geographical sites of displacement. Fondane’s Exode is the product of a double displacement and a double translingualism. Writing in French became an expression of homelessness, of being trapped in a historically recurring Babylonian exile. French became, not the medium of cultural liberation and openness, but a language of unredeemable foreignness.