The Arty Semite

Mon Semblable, Mon Père: Likenesses Found on the Lindon Tree

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The French Jewish publisher Jérôme Lindon, who died in 2001 at age 75, introduced such authors as his friend Samuel Beckett and the 1950s Nouveau Roman (new novel) school, including Nathalie Sarraute and Claude Simon through his Les Éditions de Minuit.

Growing up as Lindon’s son is the subject of an elegant new memoir by Mathieu Lindon, a novelist and critic. “What Loving Means” (Ce qu’aimer veut dire), out in January from Les Éditions P. O. L., describes the early twenties of Mathieu, now 55. The wild oats he sowed during those younger years included promiscuous sex and LSD. Mahler’s first two symphonies are appropriate acid trip listening, Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” is not, Mathieu claims.

Drugs were an escape from family rivalry. Describing himself reciting Kaddish over his father’s grave in a phonetic transcription, Mathieu notes that his grasp of bar mitzvah Hebrew had long ago evaporated, while Jérôme Lindon was an avid and erudite student of Hebrew:

My father [would read the Kaddish] sometimes at Jewish funerals, even when he was not the designated person to do so liturgically, because he knew the prayer by heart, which was often not the case of the deceased’s son.

Unable to rival his father in Jewish understanding, Mathieu explains in “What Loving Means,” he also abnegated an unyielding family righteousness represented not just by Jérôme, but by Jérôme’s father Raymond Lindon, a lawyer and prosecutor. One of Raymond’s brothers took his family’s tendency to umbrage so far that in a restaurant, he dropped dead in “fury, exasperated by the poor service.”

Eschewing such high dudgeon, Mathieu focused on his friendship with Michel Foucault. If Mathieu phoned his father at the office of Les Éditions de Minuit, “I almost systematically had the feeling that I was wasting his time, and not just his, as if I were interrupting him in the middle of decisions concerning the world’s future, or at least the literary world.” By contrast, Foucault, the philosopher “never postponed or shortened the [phone] conversation.” Indeed, Foucault would ask Mathieu to apartment-sit his flat on the rue de Vaugirard, a duty for which he proved unreliable.

Lindon père et fils turn out to share more in common than not, both being exceedingly cautious (“prudent”) by temperament, and after reading one of Mathieu’s novels, Jérôme tells his son: “It’s clear you are a good person,” although Mathieu wryly wonders why it took reading his novel for his father “to arrive at that conclusion.”

Watch a shell-shocked Jérôme Lindon interviewed in 1969, soon after the news that his friend and author Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize.

Watch Lindon discussing another one of his Nobel Prizewinning authors, novelist Claude Simon in 1958, and 1985.

Watch Mathieu Lindon discussing his new book, “What Loving Means,” in January.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Samuel Beckett, Nathalie Sarraute, Jérôme Lindon, Claude Simon

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.