The quality of Lion Feuchtwanger’s works continues to be the subject of ongoing discussion, not just among academics but also in mainstream media.
Literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki included Lion Feuchtwanger’s evocative Neue Sachlichkeit short story Höhenflugrekord in his Der Kanon–Erzählungen. However, in a 2010 article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Reich-Ranicki argued that Feuchtwanger’s writing was sometimes “gaudy”.
Micha Brumlik, professor of education at the University of Frankfurt, writing in the Jüdische Allgemeine in 2013, drew attention to the continuing relevance of Der jüdische Krieg (1932), with its lucid portrayal of early Jewish diaspora identity.
Bayerischer Rundfunk, on the occasion of its 2014 rerun of Dietrich Leube’s TV documentary Lion Feuchtwanger: Geachtet & geächtet, argued that it was with Erfolg that Lion Feuchtwanger staked his claim to immortality.
And Ian Wallace, Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Bath and former President of the International Feuchtwanger Society, singled out the portrayal of holy war in Die Jüdin von Toledo as particularly noteworthy, in a recent article for the Forgotten Gems section of the website New Books in German.
These interesting and diverse insights are developed in appropriate depth in Feuchtwanger Studies (2009-present) and in numerous other recent books and articles, some of which are discussed and hyperlinked elsewhere on this web portal.
What is undeniable is that Lion Feuchtwanger’s work was much admired by his fellow writers in exile from Nazi Germany, among them Thomas Mann. Abundant evidence of this can be found in the Lion Feuchtwanger 60th birthday book.
The Lion Feuchtwanger 60th birthday book was originally published on July 7th 1944, and excerpts were re-published in English by USC Libraries/Villa Aurora in 2014. On June 7th 1944 Thomas Mann sent the following letter for inclusion in the book:
Pacific Palisades, June 7th, 1944
“Dear Lion Feuchtwanger,
I find it rather amusing that I’m sending you greetings for your 60th birthday on this handmade paper via New York, since we are, after all, neighbours on this slightly unreal coast and I often have the pleasure of seeing you in person anyway. Actually there’s nothing to stop me visiting you at your castle by the sea on July 7th, so that I may shake my young colleague encouragingly by the hand (my God, I was already 60 at the point when Hitler was embarking on his sins). That will be better than writing to you. However, I do not wish to be absent, nor will I be permitted to be, when the literary world pays you collective homage and your richly blessed life is assembled between the handsome covers of a volume, even though on birthdays one would prefer not to be what one usually is—a writer required to formulate everything with great art and precision.
Allow me, then, to be brief and sincere! This will be more of a handshake than a birthday essay. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m fond of you, and am always eager to chat when we meet socially. This is easy to explain. You are a likeable, cheerfully communicative, and — if you’ll forgive the expression! — ingenuous fellow, whose Munich manner of speaking makes people comfortable; you are also a knowledgeable, experienced man from whom one can learn something; and behind your personality lies a body of work that is diverse, energetic, rich in characters, well researched, astute in its critique of our era, and felicitous. Since the beginning, your work has been well received in many parts of the world, first in Germany, then outside it in both East and West, and in Russia and the Anglo-Saxon countries. I heard it with my own ears in England: ‘It’s almost as good as Feuchtwanger’ was true praise indeed.
I have always admired your existence. You were born to happiness and success, and they will not desert you. You are a comforting example of how a cheerful approach to individual destiny can triumph over the gloom of circumstance. Our era has treated you badly, as it has all of us. You have suffered losses and affronts, been uprooted and endangered — yet I have never heard you talk about any of this without laughter in your voice. It has all turned out well for you. I believe you were the first of the emigrés to acquire a suitably impressive house: in Sanary-sur-Mer, where we spent those first few months following our discharge as German writers. I would have loved to have brought Goebbels to your house and shown him the view, to enrage him. Now, prolific as ever, as an honored guest of this expansive but cosy country, you are waiting for the mindless episode which refers to itself as National Socialization and which you have done, you may say, your best to avoid, to come to an end. You are only 60, you spry young thing. Unlike the undersigned you’ll be able to adjust gradually to what comes next. Whether I’ll be missing out on much need not be addressed here. Provided things turn out as anticipated, we will all live to see, and celebrate together, the ignominious end of the murderous lunacy that drove us out of Germany; and each of us, when the time comes, will leave this life safe in the knowledge that on this star with which we were briefly acquainted, though not everything is, to put it mildly, entirely flawless, the most idiotic, most despicable aspects lasted no longer than perhaps a dozen years.