This book is concerned with the aporias, or impasses, of forgiveness, especially in relation to the legacy of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. Banki argues that, while forgiveness of the Holocaust is and will remain impossible, we cannot rest upon that impossibility. Rather, the impossibility of forgiveness must be thought in another way. In an epoch of “worldwidization,” we may not be able simply to escape the violence of scenes and rhetoric that repeatedly portray apology, reconciliation, and forgiveness as accomplishable acts.
Accompanied by Jacques Derrida’s thought of forgiveness of the unforgivable, and its elaboration in relation to crimes against humanity, the book undertakes close readings of literary, philosophical, and cinematic texts by Simon Wiesenthal, Jean Améry, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Robert Antelme and Eva Mozes Kor. These texts contend with the idea that the crimes of the Nazis are inexpiable, that they lie beyond any possible atonement or repair. Banki argues that the juridical concept of crimes against humanity calls for a thought of forgiveness—one that would not imply closure of the infinite wounds of the past. How could such a forgiveness be thought or dreamed? Banki shows that if today we cannot simply escape the “worldwidization” of forgiveness, then it is necessary to rethink what forgiveness is, the conditions under which it supposedly takes place, and especially its relation to justice.
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Table of ContentsPreface Introduction: To Forgive the Unforgivable 1: The Survival of the Question: Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower 2: Reading Forgiveness in a Marrano Idiom: Jacques Derrida 3: Crimes against Humanity or the Phantasm of “we, men” 4: A Hyper-Ethics of Irreconcilable Contradictions: Vladimir Jankélévitch Conclusion: Forgiveness as a Jewish Joke Epilogue: “What an Art of Living!” Acknowledgments Notes Works Cited