Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jean Améry, A Tortured Body, A Tortured Mind

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Jean Améry [born as Hans Maier in 1912 in Vienna, Austria–died in 1978 in Salzburg, Austria]. Amery’s most famous book of collected essays, which he began writing in 1964, in German, is Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne: Bewältigungsversuche eines Überwältigten; Trans: Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P Rosenfeld), or in English, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, published in 1966 and re-issued ten years later. The title describes so much, including whhat happens when someone has been tortured, as Améry was by the Gestapo. A person who has been tortured forever remains tortured, notably a person of the mind who relies on abstractions and imagination. When the blows of harsh reality strike, immediately his trust in humanity is not only diminished, it is forever gone. Amery writes in “Die Tortur,” one of the essays in the book noted above: “At the first blow…trust in the world breaks down. This other person, opposite whom I exist physically in the world and with whom I can exist only as long as he does not touch my skin surface as border, forces his own corporeality on me with the first blow. He is on me and thereby destroys me. It is like a rape, a sexual act without consent […].” Torture always defeats trust. It might be that one man ruling over another is not humane; torture is its full and complete antithesis, the negation of man. For that reason alone, there is no moral reason that torture should ever be used. Améry killed himself on October 17, 1978; he was 65. Whether his was an act of defiance or of despair, one can never know with certainty; it was, however, an act of a man who had reached his limit. I have not read this book, only excerpts, but it is on my list of books to order. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

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