dinsdag 12 december 2017

Over Spinoza en Rembrandt… [2] De casus Julius Bab (1883 – 1955)


Julius Bab is in dezen een bijzonder geval. De literair historicus Bab was in Berlijn, waar hij ook geboren was, meer dan dertig jaar lang criticus van het Berlijnse Theater. Daarnaast was hij adviseur van het volkstheater, de Volksbühne. In juni 1933 deed hij met de stichting van de Jüdischer Kulturbund dat een eigen theater exploiteerde, een poging om het culturele leven onder de joden  ondanks de opkomst van het nazisme in leven te houden. In 1940 vluchtte hij naar de V.S. waar hij theatercriticus werd van de New York Herald en de New Yorker Staatszeitung und Herald en Deutche Blätter. Hij bundelde zijn kritieken in de Chronik des deutschen Dramas (1921–22), een goudmijn voor de geschiedenis van het Duitse drama, schreef monografieën over Shakespeare, George Bernhard Shaw (1910), Richard Dehmel (1926) en Albert Bassermann (1928), Goethe und die Juden (1926), een essaybundel Am Rande der Zeit (1915) en een bundel Ausgewählte Gedichte [Als Privatdruck für seine Freunde herausgegeben an seinem 50. Geburtstag. Berlin: Druck A. Seydel & Cie.), 1930, 48 S.] [Cf. The Jewish Virtual Library]
In zijn onuitgegeven Erinnern schreef hij, afstand nemend van de joodse godsdienst "so war men Vater Jude." Maar in een brief van 29 juli 1916 schreef hij aan Martin Buber: “Aber ich bin ein Jude, ich bekenne und betätige und lebe Judentum — ohne in die Synagoge zu gehen und ohne den jüdischen Turnverein für etwas anderes als eine Absurdität zu halten.” 1

Over Spinoza (en Rembrandt) schreef hij
Julius Bab, “Spinoza: Zwei Gedichte.” In: Freie Jüdische Lehrerstimme 1 (1912/13), 45. Ik heb uit deze antiquarische aanbieding niet de indruk dat ze in Ausgewählte Gedichte zijn opgenomen – dat wordt dus nog goed zoeken.
Julius Bab, Rembrandt und Spinoza. In: Der Morgen 5, n. 4 (1929), 393-397 [te lezen in Sammlungen. ub.uni-frankfurt.de] 
Julius Bab, Rembrandt und Spinoza. Ein Doppelbildnis im deutsch-jüdischen Raum. Berlin; Philo. 1934 – een verdere uitwerking van zijn 1929-artikel.
Tweemaal schreef David Wertheim over deze Bab:
David J. Wertheim, "The Symbolic Meaning of a Presumed Relationship: Rembrandt and Spinoza in German Literature. In: Martin Bollacher, Thomas Kisser und Manfred Walther (Hrsg.), Ein neuer Blick auf die Welt: Spinoza in Literatur, Kunst und Ästhetik: with abstracts in English. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann (Schriftenreihe der Spinoza-Gesellschaft ; 14), 2010: 73-81. Hierna het abstract:

Een jaar later verscheen de handelsuitgave van zijn proefschrift:
David Wertheim, Salvation Through Spinoza: A Study of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany. BRILL, 2011 – books.google
Daaruit neem ik hier de boeiende passage over Julius Bab over (zonder – op één noot na - de verwijzingen mee te nemen).


Julius Bab (1883-1955) wrote the most extensive analysis of the relationship between Spinoza and Rcmbrandt in defense of the belief in a symbiosis between Germans and Jews. Bab, a Jewish theater critic from Berlin, was a firm believer in a "tiefen Wesensbeziehung zwischen Deutschtum und Judentum" (profound essential connection between Germanness and Jewishness)." He was a soldier during the First World War, and wrote patriotic poems on Germany. He also wrote a small hook on the subject of Rembrandt and Spinoza, which was printed by the Jewish publishing house, Philo Verlag. This book appeared in 1934, one year after Hitler's rise to power. It elaborated a short article on Rembrandt and Spinoza, published in 1929 in der Morgen. The book concerned the similarities between Rembrandt's and Spinoza's lives. Bab already indicated the significance of the parallel lives of the philosopher and the painter in the title of his book: Rembrandt und Spinoza. Ein Doppelbildnis im deutsch-jiidischen Raum (Rembrandt and Spinoza. A Double Portrait in the German Jewish Space). That he spoke of a German-Jewish space, making The Netherlands part of the German cultural realm, reveals the influence of I.angbehn. By speaking of a German-Jewish space he indicated his firm belief in the existence of a meeting ground for Jews and non-Jews. In 1934, such a belief was quite a defiant statement, although Zionists would also consider it to be tragically erroneous. For Bab, however, parallels in the biographies of Rembrandt and Spinoza validated this belief. Bab carefully formulated his aims, and daimed that his book commented on the "kampfvolle[n] Tage" (days of strife) in which it was written, and dealt with the author's "Frage nach seiner Existenz als Deutscher und Jude" (question over his existence as German and Jew). His book also dealt with the wider issue of whether or not creative spirits would be better served by "Abtrennung" (separation) or by "intensivere Wechselwirkung der Menschengruppen" (intensive interplay between groups of people)," or, as it could also be phrased, whether races could understand each other.

Bab did not speculate about possible contact between Spinoza and Rembrandt; he admitted quite frankly that there was no evidence for this. Nevertheless, he did suggest a spiritual closeness binding the "spanische Jude... wahrscheinlich das Gröβte, am meisten bewegende Genie, das das Judentum in nachbiblischer Zeit hervorgebracht hat" (Spanish Jew ...probably the greatest, most mobile genius, which Judaism has produced in the post-Biblical era), with Rembrandt, "der reinste und groβartigste und gerade dadurch weltwichtigste Ausdruck deutschen Wesens" (the purest and the greatest and precisely because of that universally most important expression of German nature). Bab described this mysterious connection between the great Jew and the great German in the following words: "Wie Rembrandt und Spinoza aneinander vorbeigingen, jeder zur Erfüllung seines innersten Wesens, auf das Volk des anderen zu, das scheint nicht Fremdheit und Ausschlieβlichkeit darzutun, sondern eine geheimnisvoll verwandte Anziehungskraft, ein tief innerliches Bedürfnis nach gegenseitiger Ergänzung" (How Rembrandt and Spinoza surpassed each other, each toward the fulfilment of his innermost essence, from one people to the other, then strangeness and unrestrictedness do not matter, but a mysterious affined attraction, a profound inner need for mutual supplementation). This, according to Bab, came to expression in the fact that in their life quests both men resembled Goethe's Faust, and that no one but Rembrandt ever lived a life so much according to the Spinozist principle amor fati.*) Bab's main argument, however, was that the genius of Rembrandt and Spinoza led them on paths separate to those of their communities. After being banned, Spinoza acquired a substantial following in the non-Jewish world. This following had an obviously German tint to it, and Bab included in it not only Spinoza's "christlich germanische Freunde" (Christian German friends), but also the German philosopher Leibniz, who once visited Spinoza, and the "Spinoza-Kult der deutschen Klassik und Romantik" (Spinoza-cult of German Classicism and Romanticism), which included, of course, Goethe. Furthermore, Rembrandt ventured into the Jewish ghetto, where he chose to live and work, and where he found many of his models, particularly for his Biblical paintings. Symbolically, Spinoza and Rembrandt suffered from the consequences of the choices they made in their respective lives - the first with a ban and the second with bankruptcy - on practically the same date. Thus "die Fremde Art im Tiefsten erfuhlend" (feeling the alien sort in the most profound way), both Spinoza and Rembrandt had reached their highest peaks.

Grating against the anti-Semitism of National Socialism, Bab's book commented on the estrangement of Jews and Germans in his day. The topicality of Bab's hook was recognized in some of its reviews. Der Morgen hailed the book as giving both warmth and food for thought. The CV-Zeitung reviewed Bab's work as "im besten Sinne aktuell: nicht Für den Tag geschrieben und doch auch fur unseren Tag, und besonderes für ihn gültig" (topical in the best sense: not written for today, but even so for our day, and particularly for our day relevant).

*) [noot van David Wertheim] Bab probably considers the Nietzschean concept of amor fati another phrasing of Spinoza's concept amor dei inteliectualis.
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Julius Bab in de.wikipedia
1) Dit en meer te lezen in
Elisabeth Albanis, German-Jewish Cultural Identity from 1900 to the Aftermath of the First World War: A Comparative Study of Moritz Goldstein, Julius Bab and Ernst Lissauer. Walter de Gruyter, 2002 – books.google

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