Finding Feuchtwanger

Baruch Zacheim's library mural, Coit Tower

Photo by Sam Fam

Among the many, many volumes I inherited from my father’s library is a near-complete collection of the works of Lion Feuchtwanger. No one reads Feuchtwanger these days. As far as I can tell, only one of his books is still in print in English, The Oppermanns (4½ stars on, funnily enough in a translation by someone I know.

But there was a time when Feuchtwanger was devoured by left-wing readers in the US. My father’s library has a lot of books like that. The resonance of Feuchtwanger was brought graphically home to me this weekend, when my family took advantage of a crisp, sunny day to wander around San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. Coit Tower, at the summit, has a famous set of murals, completed by the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal. There’s a distinct left-wing ethos to these wonderful works, by a number of different artists. Look closely, however, at The Library (above), painted by Baruch Zakheim, and you’ll find many of the authors from my father’s library. Including Feuchtwanger.

I really need to pull one of those volumes down from my shelves and see if the neglected Feuchtwanger holds up well.

2 thoughts on “Finding Feuchtwanger

  1. William Bingham

    While searching Feuchtwanger images for a film project I am working on I came across your great blog and site and this great post.

    My father, Harry Bingham (Hiram Bingham IV), was one of the people who spirited Feuchtwanger away from a concentration camp disguised as a woman and hid him at his Villa in Marseille until he could be smuggled out of the country with the help of Varian Fry (an American Journalist) and others.

    My Dad’s story is written up (with some relatively minor inaccuraciea) in this month’s “Smithsonian Magazine”

    I have been working on a film script based in part on Feuchtwanger’s model of historical novels and fiction to tell these stories.

    One of my favorite pieces by Feuchtwanger is the excellent “Simone” about the Nazi advance through France and a Jean D’Arc dream inspirred adolescent girl who resorts to sabotage to fight the Nazis (the daughter of a hero/martyr Frenchman who fought againts the terrors of colonialistic oppression in the Belgian Congo.

    Thanks for the tip about mural.

    I too have copies of many of Feuchtwanger’s books (he was also a screenwriter) inscribed to my father with gratitude — but the account of much of his harrowing imprisonment and escape in Vicht France is in his book “The Devil in France” and in Germany that is published with the diaries he kept while hiding with my father (all great material for a feature film re-creation.

    Glad someone even remembers Feuchtwanger. He was one of Hitler’s most hated foes and a public enemy number 1 of the Fascists. His stories resonate incredibly well today.


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