Edited By Andrzej Katny, Izabela Olszewska and Aleksandra Twardowska
Piotr Kallas: The Last Historian? The Wandering Jew as a Chronicler of the World
The Last Historian? The Wandering Jew as a Chronicler of the World Piotr Kallas University of Gdańsk “The true length of a person’s life, whatever the Dictionary of National Biography may say, is always a matter of dispute”. (Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography) Abstract – The Jews have perhaps the longest history of any nation on the Earth; combined with their paramount importance for the formation and growth of Western civilisation in gen- eral, and of Christianity in particular, it is not surprising that their presence in literature and folklore has also always been conspicuous. The figure of the Wandering Jew, first recorded in the 6th century, has been a stock character in Western literature (especially in the literatures of the French, English and German languages, but also in Polish). The present paper, entitled “The last historian? The Wandering Jew as a chronicler of the world” provides a brief over- view of the legend’s historical development and offers an opportunity to investigate the sig- nificance of the figure of Ahasuerus (as the Wandering Jew has usually been named) as a wit- ness and participant as well as a recorder of human history of the last two thousand years. The focus is on the work of such writers as Jean Potocki, George Croly, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Hamerling and Jean d’Ormesson. The study suggests that the successive incarnations of the Wandering Jew as chronicler of the world offer a unique opportunity to scrutinise the changing historical perspectives of the last two centuries,...
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