Saturday, 5 January 2008


"Tragedy is alien to the Judaic sense of the world," George Steiner argues in The Death of Tragedy, adding that "the Book of Job is always cited as an instance of tragic vision. But that black fable stands on the outer edge of Judaism, and even here an orthodox hand has asserted the claims of justice against those of tragedy ... Job gets back double the number of she-asses; so he should, for God has enacted upon him a parable of justice" [6-8], Can Steiner really mean this? It is as if to say: 'the Holocaust was a parable of justice, because although Jews suffered, at the end they got Israel to live in'. Wouldn't that be a crazy, not to say insulting, assertion, though?

Job, surely, is a parable of the arbitrariness of life; the arbitrariness of suffering is succeeded, for no very good reason, by the arbitrariness of reward. And that arbitrariness is, precisely, at the heart of tragedy.


Lenoxus said...


PS: I think you might be missing a preposition in "Tragedy is alien the Judaic"... do you mean "in the judaic"?

Adam Roberts Project said...

Quite right: thanks.