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This is an intimate story of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the exalted, visionary, often ridiculous, little man whose heights of philosophical grandeur were equaled only by the degrading absurdity of his private life. It is also the story of his effortlessly adulterous wife; of the frivolous nobles in France who made it fashionable to read him; and of the heroes, villains and fools who built the French Revolution and its resulting in the days of the Terror largely on his words. This is the story of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s life as he lived it and as he described it in his celebrated “Confessions.” It tells of the good and evil that came to the world largely because a cuckolded husband, who happened to be a greatly misunderstood philosopher, was murdered by his wife’s paramour.
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The celebrated German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger (1884–1958) was an incomparable master of the historical novel, applying his distinctive technique of projecting critical contemporary themes onto exceptional individuals and complex historical scenery from times long gone. Using a thorough knowledge of historical detail and playing the role of an enlightened philosopher with a highly idiosyncratic literary style, he engaged both ancient Jewish history and the dilemmas of Jewish existence in his key writings. Throughout his career, Feuchtwanger was drawn to a central theme of Jewishness, and his best work presents the enigma of the Jew and treats the quandary of being Jewish in a non-Jewish world. He depicts the predicament of the “modern” Jew, of whatever historical period, in achieving a synthesis of his or her particular relationship to the Jewish people and a universal relationship to all humanity. Beginning in 1925 with his instantly famous novel "Jew Süss" and followed by his "Josephus" trilogy—"Josephus" ("The War of the Jews"), 1932; "The Jew of Rome," 1935; and "Josephus and the Emperor" ("The Emperor and His Jew"), 1942—Feuchtwanger deals with the theme of nationalism versus cosmopolitanism, in the trilogy specifically via the life of Josephus Flavius, the renowned yet controversial Jewish historian of the first century. In these inimitable and haunting works, as also in his life, Josephus witnesses firsthand the tragic fall of Judea and the Jerusalem Temple, and then spends his life defending the Jewish cause on the world’s greatest stage at the time, Rome. Feuchtwanger also wrote fascinating historical novels on Goya the artist, Benjamin Franklin in France ("Arms for America"), and Rousseau the philosopher. Toward his life’s end in California, Feuchtwanger took up the theme of Jewishness again in his novel "Raquel, the Jewess of Toledo."
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