History, Imagination, Exile
Edited By Paul Lerner and Frank Stern
5 Caught between Cultures: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Flavius Josephus (Adrian Feuchtwanger)
5 Caught between Cultures: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Flavius Josephus
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...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.