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Feuchtwanger and Judaism

History, Imagination, Exile

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Edited By Paul Lerner and Frank Stern

This collection of essays is devoted to the Jewish themes that ran through Lion Feuchtwanger’s life, works and worlds. Beginning with a selection of Feuchtwanger’s unpublished writings, speeches, and interviews, the volume examines the author’s approaches to Jewish history, Zionism, Judaism’s relationship to early Christianity and to eastern religions, and Jewish identity through his works, above all his historical fiction. Essays also trace translations of his works into English and Russian, and the meaning of his writing for various communities of Jewish and non-Jewish readers in Britain, North America, and the Soviet Union. A final section frames the issues around Feuchtwanger and Jewishness more broadly by considering the condition of exile and expanding the focus to communities of émigré writers and political figures in North America and beyond.
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5 Caught between Cultures: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Flavius Josephus (Adrian Feuchtwanger)

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Adrian Feuchtwanger

5 Caught between Cultures: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Flavius Josephus

abstract

Lion Feuchtwanger’s 1932 novel Der jüdische Krieg portrays Flavius Josephus as a young man caught between the conflicting cultures of Rome and Jerusalem and forced to make difficult choices. The novel also makes an implicit comment on the precarious position of European Jews in the early 1930s. This article outlines the principal elements and themes of the novel, and places it in the context of other German literary works of the period, in particular Hanns Johst’s proto-Nazi play Schlageter.

Principal Elements of the Novel

Over the centuries, Christians and Jews have held conflicting views of Flavius Josephus. The former considered his writings, with their accounts of early Christianity, to be near-canonical; the latter refused to read his histories and remembered him merely as the traitor who defected to the Romans in the First Jewish War – the uprising which led to the fall of Jerusalem, with all its associated symbolism for the Jewish diaspora.1 Lion Feuchtwanger, as a pacifist, anti-chauvinist commentator writing during the Weimar Republic, took a more agnostic view: in his version of the Josephus story, archetypal Jewish dilemmas are played out, and the novel as a whole makes an indirect comment on the situation of European Jews in 1932.←107 | 108→

The reader first encounters Joseph ben Matthias (Josephus’s original name) seeking an amnesty for three fellow Judeans unjustly imprisoned by the Romans for...

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