INTRODUCTION
JANKÉLÉVITCH ON BERGSON:
LIVING IN TIME
Alexandre Lefebvre
Just twenty- one years old and a doctoral student of the École Normale
Supérieure, Vladimir Jankélévitch met Henri Bergson at his Paris home.
This was a big moment for the young student. France’s greatest living
phi los o pher was not only a hero to him but, on top of that, also the subject
of his very first article, which only weeks previously had been accepted
for publication.1 Keen to speak with the master himself, the two met for
an hour and a half. These are the first impressions he noted down for a
friend:
Speaking of Bergson: last Sunday, I finally saw the great man at his
home; we chatted for a good hour and a half. His is a charming sim-
plicity, and I beg you to believe that one feels much more at ease with
him— great man that he is— than with that fussy B[réhier]. Picture a
little bony fellow (and I imagined him to be tall) whose 65 years show,
with very round blue eyes that seem to latch onto something in the
distance when he speaks. His speech is slow (an academic’s deforma-
tion!) but very simple and without affectation, despite some surprising
images that, bursting into the conversation with abrupt impertinence,
remind the listener that it is Bergson he’s listening to.2
This meeting took place in 1923 and, over the years, a close intellectual
friendship blossomed between them that would last until the end of
Bergson’s life.3 The pattern of their exchanges was for Jankélévitch to
send an article that he had written on Bergson’s philosophy for comment,
and, in turn, receive a warm and encouraging reply. So, for example, in
1924 Jankélévitch passed along his “Two Philosophies of Life: Bergson,
Guyau” and in 1928 sent “Prolegomena to Bergsonism” and “Bergsonism
and Biology.” 4 Thanks to the reputation gained from these early writ-
ings, not to mention the high esteem Bergson held him in, Jankélévitch
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