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Sarah Kofman (1934–1994)

Author of Rue Ordener, Rue Labat (Stages)

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Sarah Kofman was born in Paris to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. In 1942, her father, a rabbi, was taken away in a roundup of Jews conducted by the French police. He was deported to Drancy and died at Auschwitz. Young Sarah was forced to go into hiding, often separated from her mother and her five siblings, for the duration of World War II. Sarah began her teaching career at the Lycée Saint Sernin in Toulouse in 1960, and then returned to Paris, where she taught at the Lycée Claude Monet from 1963 to 1970. In 1970, she became maître-assistante at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where she remained until the end of her life. Despite her many years of teaching and a remarkable body of written work, Sarah Kofman was repeatedly denied tenure and promotion. She attributed this to her championing of marginal and radical thinkers, especially Nietzsche and Freud. In 1998, a number of French intellectuals, including Jacques Derrida, addressed a formal complaint about this "scandalous injustice" to the Minister of Education, Lionel Jospin. Three years later, at age 57, Sarah Kofman was finally granted a promotion to the rank of professeur. Her body of work included nearly 30 books and numerous scholarly articles on an impressive range of philosophers, literary figures, and psychoanalysts and their writings. She also published several autobiographical works, including Autobiogriffures (1976) Smothered Words (1987), and Rue Ordener, Rue Labat (1994), named after two streets in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. She took her own life in 1994, at the age of sixty.
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