Mazel Tov Baudelaire

Willem de Kooning, Woman, (1949/50).

By Ari Marcelo Solon*

The Jewish connection to Walter Benjamin's concept of "allegory".

Les lovers des prostituées
Sont heureux, dispos et repus;
As much as I can, months ago I didn't break
Pour avoir étreint des nuées.
C'est grace aux astres nonpareils,
Quite au fond du ciel flamboyant,
What month do you consume now?
Que des souvenirs de soleils.
En vain j'ai voulu de l'espace
Trouver la fin et le milieu;
Sous je ne sais quel oil de feu
Je sens mon aile qui se casse;
Et brûlé par l'amour du beau,
Je n'aurai pas l'honneur sublime
De donner mon nom à l'abîme
Who had served me as a tombeau.
(Charles Baudelaire, Les fleurs du mal)

I finally discovered the Jewish connection to Benjamin's allegory. Because of Baudelaire's 100th birthday, I discovered that allegory is the Jewish lament.

“The whores, the drugs” is the allegory of the decline of advanced capitalism. With a slim chance of redemption. Is this not Auerbach's typology? Is this not the allegory of Divine Comedy from Dante? Is this not the Job justice of Scholem's analysis? Yes, but it is more Jewish since Benjamin adopted the Hegelian-Marxist dialectic in the critique and subversion of capitalism.

Even Scholem did not go that far in his Kabbalah and Its Symbols, because his Hegelian dialectic remains hidden and not as explicit as in Benjamin. Auerbach, Benjamin's friend, is on the same page: he makes a concession between the justice of the Old Testament and subversive allegory.

The bad German baroque dramas – and not the good one, the Spanish one – qualify allegory as lamentation, mortification, death. But with a modern “legend”. Not Greek tragedy, but bad Catholic Baroque drama comes close to the Jewish lament of Job, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The good Catholic playwright Lope de Vega is very dogmatic and medieval, and does not anticipate the subversion of modernity.

In Hebrew we call the books a lament "Kinot”. Scholem has written extensively about the justice of Bible, but it was Benjamin in his concept of the Marxist allegory against capitalism who consummated the idea. This is the path of allegory: it starts in the book of lamentations, it goes to Dante, Auerbach, Scholem and Benjamin in their Baudelerian allegorism. The Romantics erred in emphasizing the truth of symbols and the phantasmagoria of allegory, but Benjamin, by virtue of the legacy of the prophets, subverted this dichotomy. He saw in Goethe's "elective affinities" that the truth was hidden and not dogmatically exposed as in the truth of the Church. One hundred years after Baudelaire, “drug addicts, prostitutes, workers” are still victims of the injustice of capitalism because nobody listens to the Jewish cry.

*Ari Marcelo Solon is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among others, of books, Paths of philosophy and science of law: German connection in the development of justice (Prisms).


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