This book considers the differing emotional investments in Israel of, on the one hand, Jews physically domiciled in Israel and, on the other hand, diasporic Jews living outside Israel for whom the country nonetheless forms a central point of affect. The book’s purpose is to trace how these two types of investment are represented by francophone Jewish writers. Israel is at once a problematic geopolitical reality in international politics and a salient topos within Jewish cultural imaginaries that transcend national boundaries. However, it has often been claimed that Israel has a “special” relationship with France, which until 1967 was its greatest ally. Israel has a large francophone community (some 800,000), while France has the largest Jewish community in Europe (some 600,000). But Franco-Israeli relations have undergone radical, largely negative transformations under the Fifth Republic (1958- ). The scope of the book is wide, addressing the following questions. How do francophone Jewish writers represent Israel in their literary works? What responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do they express both in these works and in non-literary discourse (interviews and journalistic articles)? What is the role in those responses of emotion, affect, cognition, and ethics? To answer these questions, the book examines 44 different autobiographies, memoirs and novels published between 1965 and 2012 by 27 different authors, both male and female, covering the full cultural spectrum of Jews: Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Mizrahi. The approach of the book is interdisciplinary, combining literary analysis with insights from the domains of history, journalism, philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis, and sociology.
'This closely engaged and forensically pursued investigation into the complex of emotional relationships with Israel as a modern state maintained both by Jews living there and diasporic Jews has the fascinating focus of the Francophone dimension of such a double investment [...] The book works through highly attentive readings of no fewer than 44 autobiographies, memoirs or novels by 27 different authors published over a 50-year period from 1965. [...] There is a powerful moment early on where the author convincingly defends the truth-value of affect in reading scenarios of complex and even anguished adherence [...] The successive readings indeed draw on an impressively wide range of theories and insights, encompassing historical overview, philosophical reasoning, political and journalistic urgency, and psychoanalytic or sociological frameworks.'
Sean Hand, Modern and Contemporary France
'[This] book is a timely and thoroughly detailed discussion of Francophone Jewish mediations of Israel, offering access and insights into a heretofore overlooked corpus of literature.'
Robert Isaacson, H-Judaic
'Cairns' work will be of significant interest to scholars and students in French/Francophone studies, Israeli and Jewish studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, political science, history, and conflict studies.'
Erika Hess, French Review
'Cairns is to be commended for not taking a side: that is, she presents the reader with an engaging, but scientifically motivated study.'
Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature
'Cairns takes literary fiction as unmediated testimony of individualsfeelings and attitudes. This is not the only way to read literature, of course, but in the case of the corpus studied here, it may not be the least pertinent.'
David Bellos, French Studies
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