Page 113 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

Basic HTML Version

KAHN / THREE CENTRAL EUROPEAN WRITERS
107
pay the price. Yet, not even at the height o f his pro-Soviet sympa­
thies did Feuchtwanger allow these to in trude themselves into his
work. Where he dealt with related issues, he presented both pros
and cons and even his Communists reveal a degree o f skepticism.
While he never felt tha t he needed publicly to add his voice o f dis­
enchan tm en t to the chorus o f detractors, he had his own private
doubts. His attitude was perhaps best explained in a le tter to a
German adm irer. “T he world cannot be explained without
Marx,” he wrote, “bu t it cannot be explained by Marx alone.” This
failure to embrace Marxism in its totality also led to some literary
differences with his collaborator on some plays, ex-protege and
friend , Bertolt Brecht.
Unlike Wassermann who was defensive about his Jewishness
and complained about the failure o f Germans to accept Jews,
Feuchtwanger was neither defensive no r aggressive about his
Jewish identity. He accepted it as ano ther facet o f his personality
and inne r makeup and as such to be recognized, accepted and
nu r tu red . What he adm ired about Jews was the ir ability to survive
on the basis o f a Book, o f a common spirit. In his own words:
They had no state, holding them together, no country, no
soil, no king, no form o f life in common. If, in spite o f this,
they were one, more than all the o the r peoples o f the world,
it was the Book tha t sweated them into unity . . . They bound
it with phylacteries round heart and head; they fastened it to
the ir doors; they opened and closed the day with it; as suck­
lings they learned the Word; and they died with the Word
on their lips. From the Word they drew the streng th to
endu re the piled-up afflictions o f the ir way.
{Power,
pp.
165-6)
HIS TRILOGY
While
Jew Suess
first catapulted him to international fame, the
Josephus trilogy and especially its first volume may be his greatest
Jewish work. T h e ir writing and publishing history is in itself
linked to contemporary Jewish history. T he first Josephus was
published only a few months before H itler gained power and its
German title “Der jiidische Krieg” (The Jewish War) may have
been one reason — however false — for its quick success. T he sec­
ond volume was lost when Storm T roope rs invaded his Berlin