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date: 05 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article provides a description of and introduction to Emmanuel Levinas’s wartime notebooks (Carnets de captivité), written while he was a prisoner of war in France and then in Stalag 11B at Fallingpostel near Magdeburg, Germany, during World War II. The essay draws out from his notes the descriptions of his experience as a Jewish soldier in the camps, but it focuses also on their intellectual content. In the notebooks Levinas divides his work into philosophical, literary, and critical projects. This article traces these three trajectories in the notebooks, including his notes on Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Heidegger, and Marcel Proust, and considers their impact on his later writings, arguing that they served as a testing ground for ideas that he developed later. It considers, as well, the significance both of his meditations on Judaism in the notes and his experiments with novel writing.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas, World War II, prison notebooks, Judaism, literature, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Heidegger, Marcel Proust

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