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Fragile Moses (Moïse fragile)



Original Language: French | 276 pp. | March 2015

2 Seas Represents: Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and North America.

Awarded the Goncourt Award for Best Biography in 2015!


Saviour of his people and founder of Israël, Moses cuts a particular figure in popular culture: a hero-like character, laden with superlatives and miraculous powers. He is the original Superman claims Attias: singled out to be saved from destruction, he was adopted and hid his real identity until he was moved to action by a desire to fight injustice.
And yet Moses was in fact a far more complex character than the mighty patriarch set in stone by Leonardo da Vinci would have us believe, says Attias.
According to tradition, Moses wrote the five first books of the Bible. He paints an odd self-portrait: with and against God, with and against his people, writer and destructor of the Tables, a speech-impaired prophet forbidden to enter the Promised Land, whose burial place is a mystery and blood lineage unknown.
Attias searches the Bible and rabbinic traditions, their silences and his imagination and drafts a very different portrait, a fragile Moses, a perpetual exile. Through a series of possible portraits – including a female Moses – he establishes him as an example for a spiritual form of judaism, one that is not linked to blood or land, but steeped in the will to receive and pass on, to listen, however confusing the message, and to question, whatever little answer is available.

In this groundbreaking approach to Moses, Jean-Christophe Attias, a specialist of Judaic thought, sheds light on the frailer aspects of the Biblical and historical character.

My Moses was precisely where he was not. He wasn’t in the miraculous fire, in the thunder of revelations or in the holy law. He was elsewhere, between the lines of the texts, in the silence of words.


Jean-Christophe Attias, born in 1958, is a French historian and specialist of Jewish Thought, for which he holds a chair at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne). He regularly engages in the French public debate on issues of racism and discriminations, he cofounded the « Pari(s) du Vivre-Ensemble », an annual culture festival, and has been awarded the Seligmann Award against Racism, Injustice and Intolérance in 2006. He has published or edited 15 books, some of which have been translated into English: Israël, the Impossible Land (Stanford University Press, 2003, with Esther Benbassa), The Jews and Their Future. A Conversation on Jewish Identities (Zed Books, 2004, with E. Benbassa), The Jew and the Other (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004, with E. Benbassa). Attias is currently working on the place and function of the Bible in Jewish culture and imagination. His main interests include: history of the Jewish exegesis of the Bible in the Middle Ages, especially in the XVth-XVIth Century Mediterranean (Spain and Byzantium), exegesis as a literary genre; history of culture and representations : the image of the proselyte in Jewish culture, Judaism and its « margins » (such as Karaism), the place of the « Land f Israel » in Jewish memory, etc.