What conceptual merit does the undying–the one that does not die properly–hold? What form of life is left for those who do not achieve death, those that death (the right, the necessity–to die) was taken from them? The undying is a figure of thought; its traces can be found in ancient traditions, in myths and tales, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew sources. The concept obtains new interpretations in modern writing. One (not the only) of its manifestations is the Wandering Jew (der ewige Jude). The Jew who, according to the Christian tale, was doomed not to die until the Last-Day expresses–in both literary and philosophical writings–in Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, in Goethe, Kafka, and Celan, a metaphysical construction/plan of being. The undying expresses death not as an ending, not even as the horizon, the purpose of life, but rather as its point of departure. In life there is death; the undying is a messenger of that being. After 1945, this figure was often linked with forms of extermination. Associated with the Nazi crime against Humanity and its methods of mass murder, the undying signifies not only the destruction of life forms, but also the destruction of death. This essay returns to study the undying, and to explore its philosophical implications and literary aspects, in and beyond its historical frameworks.
- German-Jewish literature
- eternal Jew