In this article, I borrow Giorgio Agamben's conception of profanation to analyze Dutch writer Arnon Grunberg's novel The Jewish Messiah (2004), whose grotesque plot includes a translation project of Mein Kampf into Yiddish. I read The Jewish Messiah as a profanation that seeks to counteract sacralizations of Adolf Hitler's book as the “Bible of Evil” in Western European secular societies such as the Netherlands and Germany, where the distribution and translation of Mein Kampf has been legally proscribed. But I also read Grunberg's novel as a profanation that seeks to undermine sacralizations of literature that place literature in a special zone governed by a supposed (Western, secular, liberal) social contract not to take offense. Steering away both from the secularist maxim that what can be offended must be offended and from the mandate to avoid giving offense in the name of liberal tolerance, Grunberg's work, I argue, provokes its readers to reflect on the question by what exactly we should feel offended.
- Arnon Grunberg, The Jewish Messiah, Mein Kampf, offense, secularism, liberalism, taboo, Salman Rushdie affair, profanation, translation rights