André Benhaïm is a professor of modern French and Francophone literature.
Après Ulysse”, “after Odysseus,” whether “after” signals a temporal or spatial displacement, questions arise. Most urgently, perhaps, we wonder what remains of the stranger. How should we understand the stranger, the foreigner, the Other who will keep knocking our door? The fundamental question here is that of hospitality, which emerges from reimaginings of the Mediterranean in the wake of The Odyssey. This journey is also an invitation to reflect on hospitality in its political dimensions, where ethics and aesthetics intertwine. This is what we will hear in stories of hospitality told by writers but also others, who might not be poets in name, but like linguist Émile Benveniste or philosopher Jacques Derrida contend with language to invoke the guests of yesteryear, to convey what we have to offer them today, and to suggest what they will make of us tomorrow.
“After Odysseus”, we are also after a name, the name of the stranger, the name that always says too much and never enough, the name that is at the same time the pitfall and the key to the act of welcoming. This is what will be revealed by Albert Cohen, Albert Camus, Assia Djebar, and Edmond Jabès, calling us to reconsider hospitality, between the sea and the desert, book and reader, speech and silence.