Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
home, confiscating or destroying all in sight. Now Feuchtwanger,
living with so many fellow-exiles on the Cote d’Azur, had to
rewrite it, including now — like Josephus — history he himself
had experienced. Feuchtwanger’s Josephus figure is powerfully
drawn to Rome, but events keep casting him back into the Jewish
orbit. Whereas in the first volume, Josephus had been a Jewish
nationalist attracted to Roman ways, he is now wholly Romanized.
In the second sequel, completed ten years later and smuggled out
o f Vichy France via U.S. diplomatic pouch, Josephus abandons
the striving for world citizenship and returns to his land and
roots.
The scenes o f Josephus wandering guilt-ridden through the
streets o f Jerusalem, following the razing o f the Temple, and his
ultimate return to die in Judea, rank among the most touching
moments in Jewish fiction. At least the initial volume ought to be
must reading in any class o f adult Jewish fiction or even the his­
tory o f Judea in the first century.
Feuchtwanger deliberately included Jewish farmers, artisans,
businessmen and intellectuals in order to demonstrate how natu­
ral Jewish life was when Jews had a land o f their own and were a
people much like all others. Yet he was obviously attracted, too, to
the idea o f a people surviving without a soil o f its own. He was
clearly drawn, too, to the vision o f Yohanan ben Zakkai o f a
nation being held together without the material base o f a state.
The notion o f a people being united by a certain
consensus omnium
on the vital questions o f Man, binding a people into a nation,
appealed to his strong sense o f the new.
But the miseries o f Jewries under Hitler put him more squarely
than he had been into the Zionist camp. “. . . No nation, no large
group o f men, can exist in airless space, where only ideas are
housed, without endangering their bondage. A nation must have
a ground on which to stand.”His interest in the new nation in the
final decade o f his life remained lively. Yet he was fearful o f a
Jewish chauvinism developing and also thought that in the
evolving Cold War Israel was tilting too much one way.
Neither Feuchtwanger’s internationalism nor his socialism
should be seen in conflict with his Jewishness. He did not belong
to those who saw in the socialist solution an end at last to “the Jew­
ish question.” Instead socialism and internationalism were to him
secular equivalents o f the religious-moral beliefs o f earlier gener­
ations o f Jews. Besides, unlike a Stefan Zweig, he did not believe