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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 Beginning with a selection of Feuchtwanger’s unpublished writings, speeches, and interviews, the volume examines the author’s approaches to Jewish history, Zionism, Judaism’s relationship to early Christianity and to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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7 The Soviet Jewish Scripture: Lion Feuchtwanger and the Soviet Jewish Bookshelf (Marat Grinberg)

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Marat Grinberg

7 The Soviet Jewish Scripture: Lion Feuchtwanger and the Soviet Jewish Bookshelf

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This essay uncovers and analyzes the crucial role of Feuchtwanger’s historical novels in shaping Soviet Jewish consciousness and identity, which began to play out in the 1930s and through the post-Holocaust period. Feuchtwanger’s collected works in Russian translations, supplied with extensive commentary, were the most significant installment in what the essay calls the “Soviet Jewish Book Shelf” – Soviet Jews’ makeshift Jewish heritage. To a large extent, Jewish memory and identity were fostered in the Soviet context through Jewish intelligentsia’s subversive and implicit reading strategies directed toward a few books with significant Jewish content that were officially published. The essay argues that the Feuchtwanger-Soviet Jewish nexus was a two-way street. Starting with Feuchtwanger’s (in)famous visit to Moscow in 1936–7, he was deeply aware of the centrality of Soviet Jews to his overall vision of Jewish history and the impact his works would have on them. The essay concentrates on the Josephus trilogy and The Spanish Ballad as most pivotal in the drama of Soviet Jewish fascination with and idolization of Feuchtwanger.

The Soviet Jewish Bookshelf as a Cultural Practice and Historical Phenomenon

In 1965, as the liberalizing Thaw period was winding down under the regime’s pressure, the first collection of Kafka’s writings appeared in the Soviet Union. It was a hefty comprehensive volume with superb translations←139 | 140→ into Russian of the Prague writer’s...

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