Le Dernier des Justes

A Jewish Child's Apprenticeship of 'The Impossibility of Being a Jew'

in European Judaism

Although The Last of the Just was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1959, the novel and its author have been forgotten. The accusations of plagiarism were such a hard offence to the Polish-Francophone author that he nearly stopped writing as a Jew and a (although oblique) witness of the Shoah. He turned to another Diaspora in his subsequent novel, La Mulâtresse Solitude (1972) and published novels with his Guadeloupean wife Simone Schwarz-Bart in which the Shoah and slavery are intertwined. In this article, I revisit The Last of the Just, which is a masterpiece because, as a hybrid form, it combines lamentation and encyclopaedic narrative, Talmudic legend and Yiddish folktales, marvellous realism and Borgesian 'journalism'. I illustrate how Schwarz-Bart's chronicle of centuries of anti-Semitism in eight European countries offers a vast chronicle 'preparing' for Auschwitz and how his dynasty of the Lévy family, elected as being the Lamed-Vov, sheds light on the unbearable tragedy and the urgent necessity to reclaim and to remember the events of the 'Last of the Just Man', killed six million times.

European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe