cover of book

Martin Buber's Formative Years: From German Culture to Jewish Renewal, 1897–1909
by Gilya Gerda Schmidt
University of Alabama Press, 1995
Cloth: 978-0-8173-0769-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9180-5 | Paper: 978-0-8173-5912-6
Library of Congress Classification B3213.B84S36 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 296.3092

An illuminating look at an understudied, but critical, period in Buber’s early career.

Martin Buber (1878–1965) has had a tremendous impact on the development of Jewish thought as a highly influential figure in 20th-century philosophy and theology. However, most of his key publications appeared during the last forty years of his life and little is known of the formative period in which he was searching for, and finding, the answers to crucial dilemmas affecting Jews and Germans alike. Now available in paperback, Martin Buber’s Formative Years illuminates this critical period in which the seeds were planted for all of his subsequent work.
During the period from 1897 to 1909, Buber's keen sense of the crisis of humanity, his intimate knowledge of German culture and Jewish sources, and his fearlessness in the face of possible ridicule challenged him to behave in a manner so outrageous and so contrary to German-Jewish tradition that he actually achieved a transformation of himself and those close to him. Calling on spiritual giants of great historical periods in German, Christian, and Jewish history—such as Nicolas of Cusa, Jakob Boehme, Israel Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman of Brazlav, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Nietzsche—Buber proceeded to subvert the existing order by turning his upside-down world of slave morality right side up once more.
By examining the multitude of disparate sources that Buber turned to for inspiration, Gilya Gerda Schmidt elucidates Buber's creative genius and his contribution to turn-of-the-century Jewish renewal. This comprehensive study concludes that Buber was successful in creating the German-Jewish symbiosis that emancipation was to have created for the two peoples but that this synthesis was tragic because it came too late for practical application by Jews in Germany.
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