Defending History’s Belgian correspondent Roland Binet has translated the 13 Jan. 2021 interview with Michael Levinas published on 13 Jan. 2021 in Actualite Juive. Michaël Levinas, who has approved the translation, is a French pianist and composer of renown. He has this year been appointed Vice-President of the French Academy of Fine Arts, has taught at the Paris National Superior Conservatory of Music and Dance and has been made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
For context see the Levinas Center Media Tracker page.
Son of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, pianist and composer, honorary professor at the CNSMDP [National Superior Conservatory of Dance and Music], member of the French Institute and the Academy of Fine Arts, Michaël Levinas has expressed his opposition to the inauguration last month of the Emmanuel Levinas Center in Lithuania. He explains why.
Actualité Juive: The city of Kaunas in Lithuania in December inaugurated a center that bears the name of your father, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. Why do you oppose that initiative?
Michaël Levinas: During a visit in Paris by the philosopher Viktoras Bachmetjevas, I learned that he wished to create an Emmanuel Levinas Center in Kaunas. I immediately told him of my reservations to the use of his name at the very place where all our family had been murdered during the Holocaust by bullets with the proven complicity of the Lithuanian people. It is an employee of mygrandfather (who was a bookseller) who denounced the family and led the Lithuanian members of the militia to his home. I pointed out the fact that it was common knowledge that my father had on many occasions expressed the solemn vow never again to return to Lithuania and never again to have any contact with that country anymore. On the other hand, I told him that I was not opposed to the fact that, within the setting of a structure dedicated to contemporary philosophy, a section might be created dedicated to the study of Emmanuel Levinas’s work. One year later, I was contacted by the French ambassador in Lithuania, Mrs. Lignières-Counathe, who informed me of the progress of a project of setting up of an Emmanuel Levinas Center. Again, I expressed my reservations, reminding her of my father’s very firm stance and of my moral and intellectual responsibility as exclusive holder of the moral rights pertaining to his work, which are of course correlated with the respect of his name and its use.
Actualité Juive: What happened next?