“Conversations with Shestov” (Benjamin Fondane)

Full version of “Entretiens avec Leon Chestov” from Rencontres avec Leon Chestov
Edited and annotated by Nathalie Baranoff and Michel Carassou, Paris, Plasma, 1982

I first met Shestov in the spring of 1924 at Jules de Gaultier’s home. Two years earlier I published, in Romanian, six chronicles dealing with his latest work translated into Romanian – “Revelations of Death”. I had no idea whether he was dead or alive, whether he was from this century or the past century. I never imagined him in any context, except maybe in Russia. And now suddenly I had in front of me this tall lanky old man, in that old-fashioned drawing room at de Gaultier’s.

I was truly moved and expressed as much, I think.

I let de Gaultier and Shestov talk and all I remember is that de Gaultier had trouble understanding Shestov’s French pronunciation (which he later improved) and that Shestov had difficulty understanding de Gaultier’s metaphysics. I had no problem with either and so I translated for de Gaultier what Shestov was saying, and explained to Shestov what de Gaultier was trying to convey.

I think Shestov was impressed with my sharpness and also with that spark of enthusiasm and combative spirit that I brought to the discussion. We left together.

For he first time in my life I felt intimidated. His daughter Tatiana took down my address and it was decided that I will be invited at the first opportunity.

From 1924 to 1929 I could locate only one note from Shestov among my papers… [+]