Four Jews on Parnassus—a Conversation

Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, Schönberg, with music CD

Carl Djerassi; Illustrations by Gabriele Seethaler

Columbia University Press

Four Jews on Parnassus—a Conversation

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Pub Date: November 2008

ISBN: 9780231146548

232 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $36.00£28.00

Pub Date: November 2008

ISBN: 9780231518307

232 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $35.99£28.00

Four Jews on Parnassus—a Conversation

Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, Schönberg, with music CD

Carl Djerassi; Illustrations by Gabriele Seethaler

Columbia University Press

This book features a CD of rarely performed music, including a specially commissioned rap by Erik Weiner of Walter Benjamin's "Thesis on the Philosophy of History."

Theodor W. Adorno was the prototypical German Jewish non-Jew, Walter Benjamin vacillated between German Jew and Jewish German, Gershom Scholem was a committed Zionist, and Arnold Schönberg converted to Protestantism for professional reasons but later returned to Judaism. Carl Djerassi, himself a refugee from Hitler's Austria, dramatizes a dialogue between these four men in which they discuss fraternity, religious identity, and legacy as well as reveal aspects of their lives-notably their relations with their wives-that many have ignored, underemphasized, or misrepresented.

The desire for canonization and the process by which it is obtained are the underlying themes of this dialogue, with emphasis on Paul Klee's Angelus Novus (1920), a canonized work that resonated deeply with Benjamin, Adorno, and Scholem (and for which Djerassi and Gabrielle Seethaler present a revisionist and richly illustrated interpretation). Basing his dialogue on extensive archival research and interviews, Djerassi concludes with a daring speculation on the putative contents of Benjamin's famous briefcase, which disappeared upon his suicide.
A beautiful book. Frederic Raphael, Times Literary Supplement
The prodigiously illustrated book is a readable treatment of an important subject. Booklist
These four titular mid-20th century Jewish intellectuals from Germany and Austria come back to life with vigor. Library Journal
List of Illustrations
Preface
1. Four Men
2. Four Wives
3. One Angel (by Paul Klee)
4. Four Jews
5. Benjamin's Grip
Notes
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Biographical Sketches
Illustration Sources

About the Author

Carl Djerassi, novelist, playwright, and emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of an oral contraceptive) and the National Medal of Technology. He has published an autobiography, a memoir, a collection of short stories, a poetry chapbook, five novels, and eight plays that have been staged all over the world.

Gabriele Seethaler, an Austrian biochemist who became a photographer and artist, began to fuse art and science in a project entitled Identity Genotype-Phenotype. The Viennese Gallery Heike Curtze has shown her work since 2000.