Cover image for The invisible voice : meditations on Jewish themes
The invisible voice : meditations on Jewish themes
Konrád, György.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt, [1999]

Physical Description:
vi, 241 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Harvest original."

"A Helen and Kurt Wolff book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.H9 K63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Written over the last two decades, the essays in this collection speak to what it means to be Jewish-historically, theologically, ideologically, philosophically-within the context of the Holocaust and the disintegration of Communism. George Konrád, a Diaspora Jew, espouses Zionism, he tells us, as one who might, if he chooses, move to Jerusalem, just as he might, if he chooses, move to Paris. Konrád, one of Europe's preeminent essayists and novelists, covers much ground in The Invisible Voice, from German collective guilt to assimilation, from the Diaspora Jew to Israel and Palestine. He discusses the participation of Jews in the "nationalist and Communist experiments," and the issue of forcing collective guilt on the Germans. He looks at European integration and how the Jews fit into it, and what their conduct should be. Should they work toward assimilation or separation in order to survive? These are thoughtful and provocative essays.

Author Notes

George Konrad, born in 1933, served as president of International PEN from 1990 to 1993. In 1991 he won the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. He is president of the Academy of Art in Berlin

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hungarian Jewish writer Konrad is best known for The Case Worker (1974) and The City Builder (1977), two extraordinary novels depicting human suffering. The essays in Invisible Voice, written during the last two decades, focus on such Jewish themes as the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and national hatred, Zionism, living in the Diaspora, and the concept of collective guilt. Konrad also discusses the hypothesis of God's existence, the dogma of the divinity of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, assimilation, Jewish-Christian reconciliation, the Ten Commandments, the place of Jews in European integration, and the disintegration of Communism. These absorbing and perceptive essays deserve to be read by Jews and non-Jews alike. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hungarian novelist, essayist and former International PEN president Konr d (The Case Worker) might just as easily have subtitled this ruminative book "Meditations on Central European Themes." Having survived the Holocaust almost by a fluke, the author endured Hungary's Communist years; he retains the skeptical worldview of an intellectual, unobservant Hungarian Jew whose hybrid identity invokes "two instructively unfortunate peoples." Conversational but somber, these 20 essays, written from 1985 to 1997, are divided into sections that are numbered continuously throughout the book, which may seem odd, but aptly suggests connective themes and ironies. "I do not believe people are good by nature," he declares at the outset, and continues in an even more provocative vein by arguing that "the Jewish people bear some of the responsibility for becoming victims in such horrifying proportions." Sidestepping the notion of community, Konr d instead interprets Jewishness as "the imperative of personal freedom of thought." Unlike many friends, he stayed in Hungary after the 1956 Soviet invasion, believing that "a sane democracy could be fashioned here." Though he acknowledges ruefully that he didn't think it would take 33 years, he remains optimistic about pluralism and democracy at home. As for Israel, he wonders about the sacrifices implied by nationalism: "they gave up being cosmopolitan... and therefore they lost something of value." The Bible, muses this essentially literary man, need not be regarded as "the sacred word," but as a novel with worthy parables. His probing mind provokes further meditations and yields many insights. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Konr d, a Hungarian Jewish writer (The Case Worker; The City Builder) born in 1933, survived the destruction of the Hungarian Jews and the postwar Communist government in Hungary. These essays--concerned with Jewish survival, human morality, and right action--defend a secular, cosmopolitan, liberal, and tolerant political position. This approach to life, Konr d believes, is appropriate not only for Jews. Konr d writes about the Holocaust, Communist regimes, personal responsibility, religious reconciliation, and Arab-Jewish political settlement. The essays "Thoughts in Jerusalem," "The Permanently Waiting," "On the Ides of October," and "Approaching David" are especially noteworthy, and his short personal memoirs are poignant and touching. This honest view of the recent past of the Jewish people in Europe, with its prescriptions for the future, is recommended for Jewish studies collections.--Gene Shaw, NYPL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Citizen or Subjectp. 1
The Ethics of Self-Defensep. 10
Show Me Your Eyesp. 16
Thoughts in Jerusalemp. 25
Deus Semper Maiorp. 50
Hungarian-Jewish Accountingp. 61
On Jewish-Christian Reconciliationp. 91
Marginal Notes to the Ten Commandmentsp. 95
Shabbatai Tzvi: Messiah? Con Man? Artist?p. 98
Letter to the Former Prisoners of Buchenwaldp. 104
The Permanently Waitingp. 109
Neither Forbidden nor Prescribedp. 135
From Hate Talk to the Cattle Carp. 142
On the Ides of Octoberp. 148
Remembering Octoberp. 161
In Biharp. 168
Longing in the Desertp. 177
Peregrinationp. 186
Three Roads for Jewsp. 206
Approaching Davidp. 220