Reading the title essay in Jacob Taubes' Vom Kult zur Kultur (From Cult to Culture)1, a collection of essays and articles written by the Jewish-German theologian and philosopher between 1953 and 1983 and published after his death, brings me back to Carl Einstein's book Die Fabrikation der Fiktionen2 of 1933. C. Einstein was the writer on whom I did my thesis. Die Fabrikation der Fiktionen was his last book. After finishing the thesis, I found myself in a place similar in some ways to the intellectual space marked out in this book. I have, in a way, lived there ever since. Maybe Taubes would help me move on, by stimulating me into looking at the Einstein book again.
Taubes' essay was written in 1954. Thirty-one years separate it from Einstein's book. The Nazi period and the Holocaust separate them. It is difficult to read the Einstein book without thinking of it as a premonition of the disaster, and it is difficult to read Taubes' essay without thinking of what happened.
The essay 'Vom Kult zur Kultur' turns around the person who was the model for Dr. Chaim Breisacher, a character who appears in Chapter 28 of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus (1947). His name was Oskar Goldberg. Like Breisacher, Goldberg was a philosopher of culture. Goldberg had published his main work Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer (The Reality of the Hebrews) in Berlin in 1925, having already presented it in lecture form some years earlier, between 1903 and 1908. Taubes describes Goldberg as a historian of myths who took his subject so seriously that he became a philosopher of myth.
Breisacher represents for Mann an intellectual forerunner of the conservative nihilism that led to Fascism and Nazism. Like Breisacher's, Goldberg's is a theory of decline. Culture is itself decline.
(To be continued)
1. Jacob Taubes, Vom Kult zur Kultur: Bausteine zu eine Kritik
der historischen Vernunft, eds. Aleida and Jan Assmann, Wolf-Daniel Hartwich und Winfried Menninghaus, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich, 1996.
2. Carl Einstein, Die Fabrikation des Fiktionen, ed. Sibylle Penkert, Rowohlt, Reinbeck bei Hamburg, 1973.