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Selflessness

Jonathan Rée, 8 May 1997

Proper Names 
by Emmanuel Levinas, translated by Michael Smith.
Athlone, 191 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 485 11466 6
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Levinas: An Introduction 
by Colin Davis.
Polity, 168 pp., £39.50, November 1996, 0 7456 1262 8
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Basic Philosophical Writings 
by Emmanuel Levinas, edited by Adriaan Peperzak, Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi.
Indiana, 201 pp., £29.50, November 1996, 0 253 21079 8
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... For God’s sake leave me alone!’ ‘Why the hell should I?’ ‘What’s it to me anyway?’ That sort of unilateral declaration of indifference must be the starting point of nearly all family quarrels, and plenty of political catastrophes as well. ‘Why should I always give way to other people? Am I my brother’s keeper?’ But eventually the question will be turned sarcastically back on you ...

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