Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
erary critic, hailed it as the finest lyric since Goethe’s
Vber alien
It was a philosophical lullaby to be sung by a father
at the cradle of his child and it first voiced Beer-Hofmann’s
attachment to his ancestral heritage. It concluded with the ver-
ses: “We are but banks of a river and deep in us flows blood of
the past streaming on to the future, blood of our fathers full of
unrest and pride. All our ancestors are in us. Who can feel
himself alone?”
Preoccupation with His Jewish Fate
The novel
Der Tod Georgs,
which followed in 1900, concluded
similarly that the individual was but the conduit through which
the immortal human stream coursed for a brief moment, and
that each person therefore owed a debt to innumerable gener•
ations, past and future. At about the same time as Herzl, who
had also begun as a Viennese aesthete and narrator, Beer-Hof-
mann discovered himself as a Jew and each of his works saw
an intensification of his preoccupation with his Jewish fate.
His drama
Der Graf von Charolais
was a box-office success
in 1904 and won the Volksschillerpreis in 1905. It included
a scene depicting a Jewish moneylender, Der rote Itzig, proudly
countering a Christian client who called him a wicked Jew, with
a narrative of Christian guilt and cruelty toward him and his
father who had been burned at the stake to the accompaniment
of festive churchbells and the singing of psalms. It was in the
role of Der rote Itzig that Max Reinhardt made his debut as
an actor. Two decades later Reinhardt, at the height of his fame
as a theater-manager, called upon Beer-Hofmann to direct plays
in Vienna, Salzburg and Berlin.
Meanwhile Beer-Hofmann had reached the climax of his lit-
erary career with his play
Jaakobs Traum.
It was completed in
1915 as the prologue to a projected trilogy centering around
King David. Published in 1918, it was staged at the end of World
War I by the Burgtheater in Vienna and by Reinhardt in Ber-
lin. The Habimah brought it in a Hebrew version to America
and to Palestine. Its basic theme is the conflict between the broth-
ers Edom and Jacob, culminating in their reconciliation and in
Jacob’s covenant with God during the memorable night at Beth-
El. In the introduction to the English translation, Thornton
Wilder calls attention to the play’s urgent message and to the
manner of its presentation divested of personal assertion and
yet of undiminished intensity.
In a magnificent poetic vision concluding the play, Jacob is
foretold the future of his descendants—a people wandering on
earth, an eternal miracle of God’s eternal world, becoming the