History, Imagination, Exile
Edited By Paul Lerner and Frank Stern
10 Listening in the Waiting Room: Feuchtwanger on the Acoustics of Exile (Sean Nye)
10 Listening in the Waiting Room: Feuchtwanger on the Acoustics of Exile
This essay foregrounds music and sound, crucial yet seldom discussed topics in Feuchtwanger studies, as it analyzes the narrative techniques in the author’s Waiting Room trilogy. Along with the trilogy’s aim “to document for posterity,” the essay argues that we can see the emergence of an acoustics of exile. It engages Feuchtwanger’s symphonic image of “The Waiting Room” as a way of addressing music’s link to the experience of exile and the problem of historical knowledge. In this reading of the trilogy, the “Waiting Room” symphony sheds light on the role music plays in all three books, as related especially to Feuchtwanger’s treatment of religion, politics, and modern media.
There exists, I am suggesting, between the conscientious author of historical novels and the conscientious historian the same difference that exists between a composer on the one hand and a researcher into the problems of acoustics. Asking the author of historical novels to teach you about history is like expecting the composer of a melody to provide answers about radio transmission.1
— Lion Feuchtwanger
In terms of literary responses to political crises, the Waiting Room Trilogy by Lion Feuchtwanger presents a case of singular urgency. The three novels that make up the trilogy, Success (1930), The Oppermanns (1933), and Exile←215 | 216→ (1940),2 were written over a span of twelve years – during the crucial...
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