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The Higher Law (Translated) [PDF]

by Karl Emil Franzos
- Unique translation
- From German: "Nach dem höheren Gesetz"
- Annotated

There was a thriving cultural life among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. There is no finer orientation into the Jewish literature of the 19th century than through the work of Karl Emil Franzos (1848-1904).

Franzos was born in the town of Chortkov in the province of Galicia (a former Austro-Hungarian Province that extended over a vast area now comprising parts of southern Poland, eastern Slovakia and western Ukraine). The son of an assimilated, liberal-minded Jewish doctor, he grew up in the city of Chernovtsy in the district of Podolia.

One of the main themes in his writing is the proposed betterment of a downtrodden eastern European culture — including the “decadence” of landed nobility and the “superstitions” of his own fellow Jews — by the spread of German culture and customs. Related to that is another common theme, assimilation and understanding between the Jewish and the Germanic peoples, a goal which he despaired of in his later years.

Franzos’s background in both secular and Jewish ecclesiastical legal issues assisted him in writing "The Higher Law." The collection in which this story first appeared, "The Jews of Barnow," was based on ghetto life in his native Chortkov. The author sought, in his own words “...the unique... charm of some subject matter that no one else had fictionalized before me. So it was above all as a writer that I went into the Podolian ghetto, and the main thing I strove for in these novellas was an artistic sense. But I didn’t try to force it at the cost of truth. Nowhere in the service of beauty have I falsified facts or circumstances, and I believe I’ve depicted this adventurous and exotic way of life in all its details precisely as it appeared to me....”

The author coined a controversial phrase that was to be used and misused from then on: “Every country has the Jews that it deserves.” But he went on to explain what he meant by that: “...it’s not the fault of the Polish Jews that they’re on a different cultural level than their fellow believers in England, Germany and France. At least certainly not their fault alone... I’m not depicting the Polish Jews any better or any worse than they are, but exactly as they are. These novellas are not written to mock the Jews of the East any more than they are to glorify them....”

Focusing on more than a race of people, though, "The Higher Law" makes individual archetypes come to life in a tale where the main characters are forced to seek happiness and even peace of mind by making their own rules and exploring justification by a “higher law.” The narrative tone ranges from outer comic humor to inner tragedy. In the person of Nathan Silberstein we meet a personality with traits of selfless devotion and an almost Messianic feel for atonement. Carrying tolerance to a fault, he seems a somewhat distorted version of the great literary model of Jewish tolerance, another Nathan, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s "Nathan the Wise."

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Book info

eBook formatKindle Edition, (torrent)En
PublisherHackentosh Media
File size5.2 Mb
Release date 01.04.2011
Pages count43
Book rating3.7 (1 votes)
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1 comment

1. Persia Emily | 09.10.2016 17:33

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Thank you! Great book!

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