History, Imagination, Exile
Edited By Paul Lerner and Frank Stern
4 Historical, Political, and Metaphysical Aspects of the East in Feuchtwanger’s Der falsche Nero (Sebastian Musch)
4 Historical, Political, and Metaphysical Aspects of the East in Feuchtwanger’s Der falsche Nero
This article examines the historical, political and metaphysical aspects of the East in Feuchtwanger’s novel Der falsche Nero. As a first step, I will expound on Feuchtwanger’s attraction to the East, which is rooted in the period around the First World War. Secondly, through a comparison of Thomas Mann’s and Feuchtwanger’s stances towards the war, I will highlight Feuchtwanger’s understanding of the historical task of the writer. After scrutinizing his conception of the role of Jewish people in the East and West, I will finally discuss Georg Lukács’ and Arnold Zweig’s critical objections to Der falsche Nero. In the conclusion, I will argue that it is precisely Feuchtwanger’s focus on the metaphysical dimension of the East, combined with his lack of interest in its actual history or politics, that lies behind Lukács’ and Zweig’s criticism.
The East in Der falsche Nero
Around the time he finished the revision of Warren Hastings, now entitled Kalkutta 4. Mai, together with Bertold Brecht in the second half of 1935, Feuchtwanger embarked on a new novel, Der falsche Nero.1 Widely←87 | 88→ read as a roman à clef that satirizes Hitler’s usurpation of power, the novel depicts the rise and fall of a false Nero, who manages to subdue a significant part of the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Similar to Jud Süß, Feuchtwanger chooses...
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