Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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102
JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
(1919) (The World’s Illusion),
and Der Fall Maurizius
(1928) (The
Maurizius Case), only
Die Juden von Zirndorf
may be rega rded as a
truly Jewish novel. In addition, this first work foreshadowed his
favorite later themes: evil, suffering, ind ifference to the lot o f
others, justice and the lack o f it, illusion and reality.
Die Juden von Zirndorf
consists o f two parts, a pre lude and the
novel itself. T he p re lude with its animated , myth-laden, colorful
characters, opens with Jews being inform ed o f the advent o f the
Messiah in far o ff Smyrna. T he Jews are jub ilan t; the ir long wait is
over; th rough Shabbetai Zevi they will re tu rn to Jerusa lem . T he
caravans set ou t for the East. But en rou te they encoun te r a
re tu rn ing group. T he Messiah had proven false and converted to
Islam. For a fleeting moment the near realization o f an ancient
dream had transpo rted them into unknown regions o f joy and
loosened old, confining bonds. They settle now in what they iron ­
ically call Zionsdorf (Zion village) which will soon become — to the
German ear — Z irndorf.
Two hund red years later, the descendants o f the Messianic pil­
grims find the ir ghetto in a state o f disintegration. T h e hero ,
Agathon Geyer, has found the old religion ossified and un re la ted
to life; while he will never deny his origins or fellow-Jews he
craves absorption into the general German community. T he
many debates on Jewish questions h in t at the difficulties o f in te­
gration. T he ghetto dwellers lack self-assurance, tremble at the
though t o f the fu tu re , and see themselves hopelessly exposed to a
hostile environment. But while Agathon’s fa the r is such a Galut-
Jew, the patriarchial Gedalja is not. A man o f unconquerable
spirit, he does not bend un d e r the blows o f the Goyim o r o f the
divinity. On the Gentile side, Wassermann presents the literary
man, Gudstikker, who approves o f individual Jews bu t deplores
the ir collective power and rejects the ir acceptance as a group .
JEWISH ATTITUDES
Wassermann is unimpressed with the descendants o f the
m igrants o f two centuries earlier. “T h e Jew became a
Kulturmensch
, and some claim it was p re ten se .” O thers claim he
became a co r rup te r and seducer and tha t he understood the state
o f this world be tter than its constructor. “This is certain; an actor
o f a real human being, capable o f beauty and yet ugly; lustful and
ascetic; charlatan and dice-player, fanatic o r cowardly slave — the