The later poetry of Bernard Vargaftig (1934–2012) can pose challenges even to the advised reader. Mystical inner landscapes, strings of abstractions, and missing links in the semantic chain within and between brief lines make for variations that only partially resolve to recognizable themes. One means of examining such verse is to recognize his status as a survivor of wartime anti-Semitism who still faces the trauma of time spent in hiding during the Occupation. Another is to unpack the interplay of signs set into motion. The present analysis highlights spiritual-religious currents as further interpretive possibilities. It posits that Vargaftig’s interest in Talmudic traditions provides insights into his aims and methods. Far from asserting the presence of religious dogma, it explores how Judaic culture features in his writing, motivating him to engage with texts, alterity, and the sacred in significant, life-changing ways. It uses Comme respirer (2003) as a primary source, along with Marc-Alain Ouaknin’s Le Livre brûlé (1986) and Lire aux éclats (1989) as overviews of Talmudic history and interpretation. Commentary emphasizes excerpts from poems and interviews, as well as Judaic cultural, historical, and philosophical perspectives, in order to elucidate how Vargaftig’s ideas and techniques foreground the sacred.

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