Part III. The Anatomy of Loss -

2 November 2003
9.20 – 22.00
Tilburg University

The Quest for Life

We are born to die; human existence is therefore marked by loss. This knowledge and this experience confront us with the incompleteness of our existence, whose reason and significance we question for that very reason. The answers we find are principally determined by the myths, symbols, ideas, and ideals of our time. What idiom and what notions are typical for our time? When it comes to our experience of loss, what answers do they provide to the questions which torment us? Are old ideas still meaningful in a new world? Or have we lost the past forever, and will any attempt at regaining it only lead to nostalgia?

There is probably no greater fear than the fear of loss, the fear of naked existence, of the sheer unfathomable loneliness of an existence which has lost all meaning. It is the experience of being displaced, deprived of identity, of losing yourself. What are the consequences of such loss?

It is a thought which has been expressed many times: life’s secrets can be discovered only through loss. So what is the secret of our experience of loss? What sort of existential¬† knowledge is it that only this experience can impart? What is the relationship between mortality and morality? What secret does sacrifice, the loss of oneself, hold? These are indeed trying questions, painful questions. They are also questions none of us can escape.

Published in

Journal Nexus
2010 or Earlier

Nexus 39

De queeste van het leven Deel III. Anatomie van het verlies

De queeste van het leven Deel III. Anatomie van het verlies

Dutch publication with contributions of the speakers at the Nexus Conference 2003 about loss: of health, self-esteem, fatherland, God and worldviews and a loved one.


Serbia, 1948

David Albahari

writer and translator

Lebanon, 1957

Pierre Audi

former director of the Dutch Opera

United Kingdom, 1944

Simon Blackburn

philosopher, meta-ethicist

Russia, 1959 - 2015

Svetlana Boym

writer, literary scholar and media artist

The Netherlands, 1920 - 2005

Andries van Dantzig


Uruquay, 1958

Moshe Halbertal

professor of Jewish thought

Poland, 1945

Eva Hoffman

writer and professor of creative writing

France, 1940

Gabriel Josipovici

British writer and academic

United States, 1948

Peter Kramer


South Africa, 1952

Antjie Krog

South African poet and writer

Argentina, 1948

Alberto Manguel

writer and bibliophile

Iran, 1955

Azar Nafisi

literary scholar and a newly American citizen

France, 1946

Marc Nichanian

Professor of Armenian literature

United Kingdom, 1944 - 2020

Roger Scruton

conservative philosopher and art expert

Poland, 1945 - 2021

Adam Zagajewski

poet and essayist

United States, 1945

Katherine Ashenburg

non-fiction writer

France, 1929 - 2005

Nathalie Babel

collected and published the oeuvre of her father, Isaac Babel

South Africa, 1955

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

psychologist, member of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Netherlands, 1964

Johannette Zomer

Nexus_Nietzsche V Gogh-0154

USA, 1952

Leon Wieseltier

Jewish-American public intellectual and editor of Liberties