Affirmative weakening: Y.H. Brenner and the weak rethinking of the politics of hebrew literature

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If nihilism is a largely misunderstood concept, it is on account of both its ambivalence and its affirmative horizon. Drawing on these aspects, this article reactivates the concept of nihilism in rereading one of the most influential moments in the history of modern Hebrew literature: Y.H. Brenner's novel From Here and There and his subsequent essay on the genre of Eretz Israel. Indeed, in a central episode in the novel the limits of legitimate political critique are traced along the lines of nihilism; but, as Nietzschean-inspired theories of nihilism emphasize, nihilism, taken to the point of its own overcoming, can be completed into a moment of creative affirmation. Following the philosophy of weak thought, I read this moment in Brenner as a moment of weak affirmation. Through it, I argue, Brenner proposes a weak political and literary paradigm as an affirmative continuation of the nihilistic, post-Zionist critique. Surprisingly, then, Brenner, one of the central figures in Zionist history, turns out to be a weak thinker: he thus allows for a rethinking of the relations between nationalism, literature, and historiography. Or, in other words, for a weakening of national politics, literature, and literary historiography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalRethinking History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor and Francis.


  • Nihilism
  • Yosef Haim Brenner
  • Zionism
  • affirmation
  • modern Hebrew literature
  • weak thought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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