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David Flusser

The name David Flusser appears to be unique in the oeuvre of his cousin Vilém. Quotations and reciprocal references attest to a roughly fifty-year dialogue between the historian of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, who taught at the University in Jerusalem, and the philosopher. David was enthusiastic about the concrete and abstract models for thinking and living that Vilém developed from the intellectual traditions of Judaism, including a model for “being Jewish”: “For this reason I have tried to learn from my cousin’s bold models. For models of such importance can only be constructed if one dares to omit certain details of phenomena, so that the whole takes on meaningful significance. […] We are dealing with an artistic composition, like a painting. […] Through a process of this nature, my cousin succeeded in capturing the essence of many aspects of Judaism.” And: “I […] was almost always the learner […].” (David Flusser, “Der Prager Jude Vilém Flusser,” in: Jude sein, 2000, p. 183; translated from the German)

On the other hand, Vilém regarded his cousin David as an indispensable teacher: “A question for you, as my doctor iudeorum: Can one say that we have been projected here from there by a strong hand (beyad chazakah), so that we are only present for the moment [vorderhand vorhanden], a projection, so to speak, from Egypt into utopia, and we have yet to arrive? Jews are projects (designs) for what are, for the moment, not-yet-people? And that’s why they look like caricatures? Gusto, I miss you.” (Correspondence with David Flusser, November 25, 1990; translated from the German)

David’s response to Vilém’s sometimes ironically provocative, confounding projections and wordplay is significant: “If you take my cousin’s ‘Look’ as your starting point, wide horizons unfold.” (David Flusser, “Der Prager Jude Vilém Flusser,” p. 184; translated from the German)

In the segregated historicity of Judaism, “being Jewish” has emerged as “passé” but will, in the opinions of both cousins, become accessible to the contemporary era in its newly apparent “exemplarity.” David Flusser sees a present-day paradox in the learned “Jew Jesus”: His message comes from the specific particularity of Jewish history, yet it simultaneously opens up into the universal, the forthcoming. In their “life project,” David and Vilém Flusser supplied “tools” both old and new from the toolbox of everlasting Judaism – a legacy for the modern telematic society.

Original article by Irmgard Zepf in Flusseriana

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