After Jews

After Jews

Essays on Political Theology, Shoah and the End of Man

By Piotr Nowak

The book is an attempt to describe and critically interpret the condition of man living in the shadow of the Shoah, in the world “after Jews”. 

Hardback, 234 Pages


March 2022

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

Jews had lived with us for a thousand years. Then they were killed. Why? Had the Shoah always been brewing in these lands, or could it only happen under the conditions of late capitalism rather than in the atmosphere of primitive pogroms, the violent expulsion of Jews from their Anatevkas? An important point of reference for the author’s reflections are the postulates of the representatives of the Frankfurt School – in particular of Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment – who were the first to draw attention to the potentially criminal character of instrumental reason, disavowing at the same time the tradition of the siècle des Lumières, the approach which the author is inclined towards. Yet they looked for the causes of the Shoah not where these could be found, either in the “authoritarian personality” or in the difficulties of living, in the so-called “social question.” However, in order to understand what happened to the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1940s, one must resort to a language completely different from psychological, social, economic, or police discourse. We must resort to the forgotten language – or better said, the language that is being forgotten – of theology, especially political theology. It is there, the author claims, that one can find the right interpretative tools. It does not belong to the realm of superstition but is our last chance to understand what happened to the world yesterday and what is happening to it today. “It was the devil!” writes Alain Besançon, a witness of those times, “He was the one who communicated his inhuman personality to his subjects.” We do not know this for sure – maybe yes, maybe no. We do know, however, that it is good that a theological category – the concept of the devil, Antichrist – is returning to the philosophical and, more broadly, social and political discourse. The devil, Antichrist is not just a metaphor or a creature with a limp in the left leg and charred wings; it is rather the atmosphere we live in, manifesting itself in turning traditional values inside out, in replacing respect with tolerance, charity with dubious philanthropy, love with sex, family with any social organization, religion with science, freedom with safety and so on. Examples abound.

The author proposes to renew the sense of such theological concepts as eternity, salvation, the idea of chosenness, apocalypse, radical hope, and others, only to better understand the condition of today’s world and its increasingly aggressive attitude towards people of strong faith, which may fill us with anxiety and make us think of the recurrence of the Shoah.

There are no more Jews in Poland. They had been murdered by the German Nazis, and those who survived were expelled by the Polish communists after the war. We live in a world “after Jews.” Now we must tell ourselves what it means to us. It is important for them and for us. Important for the world.


“This is a deeply thought provoking set of essays, on writers and texts and themes of crucial significance, by one of our most stimulating and original contemporary thinkers.”
Prof. Thomas L. Pangle, Joe R. Long Endowed Chair in Democratic Studies, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin, Co-Director Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas.

“The book is a collection of essays that engage with a range of topics and authors dealing with Western civilization in the context of its Jewish and Christian heritage, the horrors of the twentieth century and its current crisis. Nowak’s voice and intellectual deliberations and choices are indicative of an intelligence who does not need to fit in with any consensus. This is what a reader wants from a collection of essays: to be engaged by a personality who it is worth being engaged by on a topic that is worth spending some time on.” — Dr Cristaudo Wayne, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Author Information

Piotr Nowak is Professor of Philosophy at the Bialystok University in Poland, deputy editor‑in‑chief of the annual “Kronos. Philosophical Journal”, and the author of The Ancients and Shakespeare on Time: Some Remarks on the War of Generations (2014). He published among others in “Philosophy and Literature” (Gods and Children: Shakespeare Reads The Prince, vol. 41, no. 1A, 2017).


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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The Chosen Ones (St. Paul); 2. The Secret of the Scapegoat (René Girard); 3. Making a Jew into a Christian (William Shakespeare); 4. There Should Be Time No Longer (D. H. Lawrence); 5. To Look Upon His Face and Yet Not Die (Jacob Taubes); 6. Ex oriente lux? (Joseph Roth, Primo Levi); 7. Pilloried by Necessity (Jean Améry); 8. German Rubble (W. G. Sebald); 9. Long Live! (K. K. Baczyński); 10. The Living against the Dead (Czesław Miłosz); 11. The Child of War (Friedrich Nietzsche, Krzysztof Michalski); 12. Plenty Coups and the End of the World (Jonathan Lear); 13. They Refugees (Hannah Arendt); 14. The Remainder of Christianity (Vasily Rozanov, Giorgio Agamben, Martin Heidegger); Bibliography; Index of Persons.


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