This article compares the works of James Baldwin and Jean Améry, a
survivor of the Jewish Holocaust. It attempts to unpack the ethical and
political implications of their shared conception of the temporality of trauma.
The experiences of the victim of anti-Semitism and the victim of anti-Black
racism not only parallel one another, but their mutual incapacity to let go of
the injustice of the past also generates a unique ethico-political response. The
backward glance of the victim, the avowed incapacity to heal, as well as the
phantasmatic desire to reverse time all guide this unique response. Instead of
seeking forgiveness for the wrong done and declaring that all forms of
resentment are illegitimate, Baldwin and Améry show us that channeling
the revenge fantasy that so often attends the temporality of trauma is the
material precondition of actually ending that trauma. This ultimately suggests
that, for both thinkers, anything less than a new, revolutionary humanism
equipped with an internationalist political project would betray the
victims’ attempt to win back their dignity.