An Intellectual Biography of the Writer and Philosopher Susan Taubes (1928–1969). A Study of the Paradigmatic Significance of Her Life and Work in the 20th Century

The aim of this project was an intellectual biography of the writer and philosopher Susan Taubes (1928–1969), one that went well beyond a simple reconstruction of her life and instead revealed it to be a historical experience paradigmatic of the 20th century. As a Jewish émigré moving between Europe, Israel, and the U.S. and as a female intellectual oscillating between art and academia, her biography demonstrates the inextricable nature of exile and homelessness.

The project drew exclusively on Taubes’ literary legacy—her manuscripts, diaries, and letters, which not only document an extraordinary network of intellectual encounters (e.g., S. Sontag, A. Camus, and E. Lévinas) but further illustrate a life and career marked by political violence and permanent transit. The systematic reconstruction of her literary legacy created a space for debates on topics largely unacquainted with one another, such as figures related to the ‘escape to life’ (Goebel/Weigel) and a ‘literature of no fixed abode’ (Ette).

Previous research on Taubes’ legacy had demonstrated the relevance of her work to contemporary issues, not only in regard to the role of religion in modern times but also in terms of questioning concepts of identity and biography. The latter concepts greatly influenced the direction of this project, which avoided a mere overview of the writer’s life in favor of an in-depth illustration of her emotional struggles with loss and alienation as reflected in her writing. It explored the complex interactions, interrelations, and intertextuality found in her works and beyond; in her personal encounters, individual fate, the writings of contemporary authors, and historical discourses. Thus, this study demonstrates how the complex experiences of the 20th century influenced the production of literary and philosophical works.

A topographical grid of Taubes’ known whereabouts formed the basis of the project. Budapest, New York, Jerusalem, Paris—how did these cities influence her intellectual and artistic works? To what extent was her movement between different locations and languages and between her position as an artist and a philosopher constitutive of her life’s work? These specific places served as historical and symbolic contexts for the writer’s individual experiences—contexts that opened a horizon of her intellectual contributions. This horizon spanned the search for a sense of belonging despite her ambivalent attitudes towards Jewish tradition and her literary and philosophical reflections on concepts of identity, which had become problematic after the Second World War and the Shoah.

 

Fig. above: Susan Taubes (1928–1969)

2014–2017 Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) 2014–2018
Head researcher(s): Christina Pareigis

 

See also:

ZfL project Susan Taubes Edition

Christina Pareigis on Susan Taubes in the Trajekte journal (in German):

“‘Creation is always violent.’ Susan Taubes an Jacob Taubes, Zürich, 4. April 1952,” in: Trajekte 15 (October 2007), 6–15

“Susan Taubes – Bilder aus dem Archiv,” in: Trajekte 20 (April 2010), 22–29

Essay with photographs from the Susan Taubes Archive at the ZfL.

The issues can be ordered by sending a stamped envelope.

 

Publications

Christina Pareigis

Susan Taubes
Eine intellektuelle Biographie

Wallstein, Göttingen 2020, 472 pages
ISBN 978-3-8353-3749-7 (Print); 978-3-8353-4511-9 (E-Book)

Christina Pareigis

Events

Talk at the international literature festival berlin
17 Sep 2021 · 7.30 pm

Christina Pareigis, Sigrid Weigel: Überall im Exil: Susan Taubes

silent green Kulturquartier, Gerichtstraße 35, 13347 Berlin

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Reading at the Literaturhaus Berlin
28 Oct 2016 · 7.30 pm

Susan Taubes: Der letzte Tanz und andere Erzählungen

Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstr. 23, 10719 Berlin, Kaminzimmer

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Reading and Talk with Christina Pareigis
31 May 2016 · 7.00 pm

Ins Deutsche übersetzt von … Werner Richter

Literaturhaus Wien, Seidengasse 13, 1070 Wien (Österreich)

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Lecture
30 Jan 2015 · 1.00 pm

Christina Pareigis: pas sa sosie. Susan Taubes und Susan Sontag: Spuren einer intellektuellen Freundschaft

ICI Kulturlabor Berlin, Christinenstr. 18/19, 10119 Berlin, Haus 8

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Media Response

23 Mar 2021
Christina Pareigis - Susan Taubes. Eine intellektuelle Biographie

Radio review by Hans-Peter Kunisch, in: WDR 3 Buchkritik, 23 Mar 2021

18 Mar 2021
Jenseits aller Gewissheiten

Christina Pareigis hat der Schriftstellerin Susan Taubes eine faszinierend empathische Biografie gewidmet
Review by Marko Martin, in: Jüdische Allgemeine, 18 Mar 2021

04 Mar 2021
Überall im Exil

Ringen um die Notwendigkeit des eigenen Daseins: Die erste Biografie der Schriftstellerin und Philosophin Susan Taubes.
Review by Johanna-Charlotte Horst, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 04 Mar 2021

27 Feb 2021
Fremdheit und Methode

Susan Taubes war viel mehr als die Frau von Jacob Taubes. Jetzt erscheint die erste Biografie über die Religionsphilosophin und Schriftstellerin, die ein Kultbuch über Scheidung schrieb
Review by Charlotte Szász, in: Die Welt, 27 Feb 2021, 27

11 Feb 2021
Die andere Susan

Review by Thomas Ballhausen, in: Buchkultur 94.1 (2021), 68

07 Feb 2021
Wer einmal vertrieben ist, dem ist jede Rückkehr verbaut

Review by Thomas Meyer, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung Nr. 5, 07 Feb 2021, 34

29 Jan 2021
Im Zustand der Selbstentzweiung. Christina Pareigis über das Leben der Religionswissenschaftlerin Susan Taubes

Review by Magnus Klaue, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Nr. 24, 29 Jan 2021

21 Jan 2021
Ungewöhnliche Intellektuelle und eigenwillige Autorin

Radio review by Carsten Hueck, in: Deutschlandfunk Kultur, program “Lesart,” 21 Jan 2021

07 Jan 2021
Denkerin

Review by Hans-Peter Kunisch, in: Philosophie Magazin 56.2 (2021) (fee required)