Saturday, February 2, 2013

Amos Oz and the Posen Library

Amos Oz in collaboration with his daughter has written a new book titled Jews and Words, which discusses the topic of Jewish identity through questions of language and reading traditions. The book is concerned about some of the traditional Zionist ideas and about whether Jewishness resides in belief or belonging, according to a review in Tablet published a couple of days ago. After describing this book, the article proceeds to discuss the new Yale-Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization.

From the article in  Tablet:
"What the Posen Library represents, then—at least when it deals with the near-present—is a canon defined by anxiety about whether it constitutes a canon. A certain anxiety is, perhaps, implicit in the very idea of a “Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization.” The sheer completism of the project, the desire to get everything from recipes to choreography to novels to prayers between two covers, makes the reader think of the Posen Library in apocalyptic terms, as a kind of Noah’s Ark of Jewishness. Indeed, the making of anthologies is often the sign of a civilization in crisis: Think of a figure like the seventh-century Christian bishop Isidore of Seville, whose major work (aside from his bitter polemics against Judaism) was the Etymologiae, a 20-volume compendium of everything the Roman world knew about history, which served as a time capsule against encroaching barbarism.  
"Or, to use a more appropriate example, think of the Mishnah—a traditionally oral body of law that was written down around 200 CE in order to preserve it through an era of Jewish dispersion and decline. It is possible to see the Posen Library as a kind of secular Mishnah, an attempt to capture the core of Jewishness in a huge but finite number of pages. The difference is that while the rabbis knew what constituted that core—it was the Oral Law, the accumulated practice of centuries—the editors of the Posen Library cannot be so sure."
If I obtain either of these new books I will report further!

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