Jean Améry: Discordant Echoes to Levi–#3

May 1, 2009

The entry below, first entered in my philosophical journal last September, continues my reflections on the work of Jean Améry.  Having addressed At the Mind’s Limits, his account of his experience in surviving Auschwitz, in the entries from my last two posts, in the entry I am posting today I turn to his account of his experience of his own aging process years after his release from the camps.  In both cases–facing the reality of Auschwitz and facing the reality of his own aging, and the losses it brings–Améry is utterly uncompromising in his refusal of all strategies of avoidance, and in his commitment to recounting as honestly as he can the truth, as he has been given to see it.   It is a desolate, and desolating, truth.  To read his faithful testimony to it is difficult and challenging, leaving the reader stripped of all possibility of justifying his or her own desperate efforts of avoidance.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Améry, On Aging:  Revolt and Resignation, trans. John D. Barlow (Bloomington and Indianapolis:  University of Indiana Press, 1994; Fr. orig. 1968), “Preface to the First Edition,” p. xxii:  “. . . my experiments [which make up the essays of the book, and as also applies to Limits], in quality more like searches, went from being an analysis to being an act of rebellion, whose contradictory premise was the total acceptance of inescapable and scandalous things.” 


PP. 76-77: 

. . .those who try to live the truth of their condition as aging persons . . . accept an-nihilation, knowing that in this acceptance they can only preserve themselves if they rise up against it, but that their revolt–and here the acceptance is an affirmation of something irrevocable–is condemned to failure. . . . They embark on an enterprise that cannot be accomplished.  That is their choice and is, perhaps, the only possibility they have of truly aging with dignity.

Thus, as it was for the inmate at Auschwitz, so it is with the aged before [that is, in the face of] aging.  Cf. Améry on that idea in relation to Auschwitz.  Cf., too, Laub on the insurrection at Auschwitz.  [Both discussed in earlier posts.]


Last lines of the book:  “Has A. [here, obviously referring to himself] done something to disturb the balance, expose the compromise, destroy the genre painting, contaminate the consolation [in the face of death]?  He hopes so.  The days shrink and dry up.  He has the desire to tell the truth.”

Struck by that truth, remaining faithful to it, does he not thereby become a Badiouian “subject”?

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