Timely Meditations on the Use and Abuse of History

Léon Werth's Déposition: Journal de guerre 1940-1944

in French Politics, Culture & Society

This article studies the question of history during the dramatic moments recorded in Léon Werth's Déposition: Journal de guerre 1940-1944. Analyzed in reference to Nietzsche, Descartes, and Lévinas, Werth's journal approaches history in a manner timely for then and now. Probing his own knowledge of and relation to France's unsettling defeat and Occupation by Nazi Germany,Werth undertakes his own version of a Cogito that leads not to some linear chain of syllogisms, but instead to an acute sense of implication in and even responsibility for history. Werth's lucidity, engagement, and ethics constrast favorably with Nietzsche's elitist, exclusionary vitalism as well as with the rationalist solitude of the Descartes' Discours de la méthode. His probing reflexions on his relation to historical events offer significant parallels to the philosophical project of Emmanuel Lévinas.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.