Sarah Kofman

Paris, 1934 – 1994

"Perhaps my numerous books have been detours to be able to tell ‘that’."

Sarah Kofman was born in Paris into a Jewish family of Polish origin. Her father, a rabbi, was deported and killed in Auschwitz. Sarah and her mother were in hiding during the whole Nazi occupation of Paris. In the first pages of Paroles suffoquées, she defined herself as “a Jewish intellectual who has survived the Holocaust” and in her last book, Rue Ordener, Rue Labat, she wrote: “Perhaps my numerous books have been detours to be able to tell ‘that’”.

Her numerous books and writings on art, psychoanalysis, literature and the philosophical tradition, from Socrates to Derrida, established her as an acknowledged reader of Freud and Nietzsche. As Françoise Collin said, Kofman took the fountain pen of the other to become a faithful and unfaithful daughter to her dead father/parents. Indeed, she thought through Nietzsche, Freud, Comte, Rousseau, Plato, and Socrates, and it is perhaps for this reason that in more than one occasion she has been confused as a mere commentator of these authors. Her philosophy consists of an ensemble of suspicious readings aimed at deconstructing the metaphysical prejudices which are present in the texts of the great philosophers. She doesn’t aspire to build a philosophical system, but simply to read so as to discover, in the depths of great systems, the mechanisms that have been used for their construction, the motives, the interests of speculation.

She was known for her intellectual independence, for her thinking full of humoristic tones, and her peculiar feminism. She was a professor at the Sorbonne, at Berkley University and Geneva. She started her academic career with a PhD on Nietzsche and Freud under J. Hyppolite and G. Deleuze’s supervision. She started, together with Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida, Galilée’s “Philosophie en effect” collection and, starting in the ‘70s, they were part of the GREPH (Groupe de Recherches sur l’Enseignement Philosophique). She was actively involved in the foundation of the Collège International de Philosophie.

Selected Works

1970, L’enfance de l’art: Une interprétation de l’esthétique freudienne, Paris: Galilée.

1980, L’énigme de la femme: La femme dans les textes de Freud, Paris: Galilée.

1987, Paroles suffoquées, Paris: Galilée.

KOFMAN, Sarah, MASSON, Jean-Yves, 1991, Don Juan ou le refus de la dette, Paris: Galilée.

1992, Explosion I: De l’”Ecce Homo” de Nietzsche, Paris: Galilée.

1993, Explosion II: Les enfants de Nietzsche, Paris: Galilée.

1994, Rue Ordener, rue Labat, Paris: Galilée.

2007, “Tres proses” (trans. to Catalan and ed. Adrià Chavarria, L’aiguadolç, number 33-34).

Secondary Literature

“Sarah Kofman“, 1997, Les Cahiers du Grif, (includes texts by F. Collin, F. Proust, J.-L. Nancy, F. Duroux, J. J. Hermsen, J. Derrida and a complete bibliography 1963-1993).

BIRULÉS, Fina, “Infància, experiència i memòria: Sarah Kofman“, 2014, in: Entreactes, entorn de lapolítica, el feminisme i el pensament, Perpignan: Trabucaire.

BURGOS, Elvira, 2004, “Dos calles, dos madres. Escritura de una vida desgarrada”, in: Riff- Raff: revista de pensamiento y cultura, n. 24, pp. 21-30.

DEUTSCHER, Penelope (ed.), 1999, Enigmas: Essays on Sarah Kofman, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

MASÓ, Joana, 2014, “¿Blanchot común? Michel Foucault, Sarah Kofman, Françoise Collin“, in: Segarra, Marta (ed.), Repensar la comunidad desde la literatura y el género, Barcelona: Icaria, pp. 43-54.

FRANCKOWIAK, Mathieu, 2012, Sarah Kofman et le devenir-femme des philosophes, Paris: Hermann Éditeurs.