Serenus Zeitblum scrive nel 1945, mentre la Germania nazista sta capitolando.
Racconta la storia dell’amico Adrian Leverkuhn, con il quale è cresciuto.
Serenus, che ha perso il posto per aver rifiutato d’abbracciare il nazismo, vive
una serena vecchiaia in compagnia della moglie Hélène,
turbato soltanto dalle vicende del suo Paese e dal ricordo delle tragedie
Il padre di Adrian, Jonathan, è appassionato di farfalle, chiocciole,
conchiglie, ghiaccio e così via, e spesso intrattiene i due bambini con
le sue singolari meditazioni sulla natura. Adrian e Serenus studiano allo stesso
ginnasio: già da allora Adrian dimostra una predisposizione per la
musica, e viene affidato all’insegnamento di Wendell Kretschmar, maestro che
s’abbandona spesso a divagazioni sulla musica dei grandi; nonostante ciò,
Adrian scopre la vocazione per la religione, ed intraprende gli studi di
teologia (è già singolare la sua disumana freddezza). Dopo due
anni l’influenza di Kretschmar ha la meglio ed Adrian si trasferisce a Lipsia
per studiare musica; lì entra per caso in un bordello e rimane come
ipnotizzato dalla vista d’una delle prostitute: torna da lei e, nonostante
questa lo avverta d’essere afflitta da una malattia venerea, Adrian la possiede,
contraendo a sua volta la malattia.
Adrian sembra personificare al tempo stesso il superuomo di Nietsche ed il
destino che punisce quel superuomo (si autoinfligge la condanna al fallimento).
Alternata alle nozze della sorella Ursula, e a quelle dello stesso Serenus,
prosegue la carriera di Adrian, che ora è inquilino a Monaco della vedova
Rodde, con le due figlie Ines e Clarissa. Grazie a loro fa la conoscenza dei
Knoterich, Konrad e Natalia, del numismatico Kranich e di altri artisti ed
intellettuali, in particolare del violinista Rudolf Schwerdtleger e del poeta
Rudiger Schildknapp (già conosciuto a Lipsia); conosce anche una vedova,
Scheurl, e sua figlia Jeanette, aspirante letterata, bruttina, dotta.
Adrian e Rudiger decidono d’andare a cercare l’ispirazione in Italia, a
Palestrina. Adrian non ha più contatti carnali con alcuna donna. A
Palestrina, durante un attacco della sua malattia, gli compare il demonio a
proporgli un baratto: la sua anima in cambio di 24 anni di trionfi; dovrà
rinunciare a tutti gli affetti e ad avere una moglie. Il demonio gli rivela come
soltanto pochi eletti vengano ammessi all’inferno.
La storia è pervasa dal senso di tragedia incombente: Mann anticipa al
lettore che alcuni personaggi moriranno, così come anticipa la catastrofe
Il racconto è allungato ed appesantito da tediose digressioni di una
doppia natura: la musica (riprendendo le teorie di Schönberg) e la
politica. Ines si fidanza con lo studioso Institoris, benché innamorata
di Rudolf, uomo vano ed infantile, esteta fin-de-siécle. Scoppia la
guerra del 1914, e Serenus parte per il fronte; la carriera e la malattia di
Adrian proseguono di pari passo nell’Alta Baviera, in cui s’è ritirato.
Prendono forma, descritte minuziosamente, le grandi opere del musicista.
Clarissa, fallita come attrice e ricattata da un suo ex amante, muore suicida
alla vigilia del suo matrimonio. L’amicizia fra Adrian e Rudolf si fa sempre
più stretta, tanto che Rudolf diventa una sorta d’ispiratore per il
genio, d’aiuto-demone. Ma i due amici s’innamorano della stessa donna: Adrian
incarica d’andare da Marie Godeau a chiedere la sua mano, ma Rudolf finisce per
chiederla per sé ed ottenerla; Adrian lo considera un tradimento. Ma
ancora peggio reagisce Ines, che spara all’amante, uccidendolo. Alla fine di un
suo concerto, Adrian rappresenta ancora la sua Apocalisse ed inizia a
comporre la Lamentatio Doctoris Faustus; l’ultimo affetto di Adrian, il
nipotino Echo, muore di meningite proprio quando sta dando un po’ di gioia al
tetro dannato. Per Adrian è la fine, esattamente 24 anni dopo il dialogo
con il diavolo: alla trionfale presentazione del suo capolavoro, Adrian confessa
pubblicamente il suo orrendo segreto e poi cade in una paralisi, che lo porta
alla morte. La Germania è appena entrata in guerra.
Adrian parla e fa poco, quasi nulla; il verboso Serenus parla troppo. La
parabola di Adrian riflette quella di Nietsche (malattia-pazzia-morte), ed il
suo declino è parallelo all’ascesa del nazismo. Il forte simbolismo del
romanzo è relativo al destino del popolo tedesco: la perenne ambizione
superominica, il patto infernale, le tragedie che ne conseguono per gli altri,
la catastrofe ineluttabile dopo gli illusori trionfi.
La tecnica di Mann è una specie di montaggio: assembla teorie sue e di
altri (Nietsche, Adorno), reperti storici, finzione narrativa.
Felix Krull cresce nell’agio d’una famiglia dell’alta borghesia, finché
la fabbrica del padre fallisce e tutti gli averi della famiglia vengono
sequestrati; il padre s’uccide ed il padrino Schimmelpreester si prende cura di
vedova ed orfani: la figlia Olimpia viene avviata al canto, la madre apre una
pensione e Felix emigra a Parigi con una lettera di raccomandazione per un
grande albergo (il cui direttore si chiama Isaak Stürbli). Felix è
un giovane molto attraente, che ha avuto esperienze molto precoci con le
domestiche, e brillanti, che parla quattro lingue: viene assunto come ragazzo
dell’ascensore, e deve condividere la stanza con il volgare Stanko. Nei suoi
bagagli è finito, per sbaglio, un astuccio di gioielli che si rivela
appartenere ad una certa Mme. Diana Houpflè, un po’ ninfomane, la quale
non solo gli si getta fra le braccia, ma vuole anche essere vittima di rituali
sadomaso. Promosso cameriere del ristorante, s’innamorano di lui Eleanor
Twentyman, la figlia ancora bambina d’una coppia d’inglesi, e poi un nobile
omosessuale, Nectan Kilmarnock.
Fa poi amicizia con il marchese Louis Venosta, i cui genitori (preoccupati per
la sua relazione con la cantante Zazà) vogliono costringerlo a partire
per un viaggio intorno al mondo: pur di rimanere al fianco dell’amata, Louis
propone a Felix di partire al suo posto, dopo essersi scambiato
d’identità con lui.
Durante il viaggio fa la conoscenza d’un paleontologo portoghese, Antonio
José Kuckuck, e, arrivati a Lisbona, di sua figlia Zouzou (Susanna) e sua
moglie Maria Pia, una più attraente dell’altra, nonché, tramite
loro, di tutto il bel mondo della nobiltà locale; non solo: la corte
della fanciulla ha successo e scatena persino la gelosia della madre, che gli si
Vittima delle circostanze, Felix è l’amoralità personificata,
però l’apologo finisce bruscamente.
Der Tod im Venedig
Gustav von Aschenbach è un celebre scrittore tedesco
che ha bisogno d'una catarsi spirituale per ritrovare l'ispirazione e decide di
compiere un viaggio di piacere. L'istinto lo spinge verso Venezia, città
pittoresca ma anche sinistra, dove intende trascorrere alcuni giorni di
tranquillità. Sulla spiaggia vede un ragazzo polacco, Tadzio, di divina
bellezza. Poco a poco se ne invaghisce, al punto d'essere lieto di non partire
per un disguido. Si mette a pedinarlo, lo sogna. La sua passione diventa mania:
cerca di ringiovanirsi con il trucco; nel frattempo è scoppiata
un'epidemia di colera: per evitare il panico le autorità italiane lo
negano, ma lui lo sa; potrebbe scappare, e, soprattutto, mettere in guardia
Tadzio: invece decide di tacere, per non provocare la separazione.
Il giorno che la famiglia si prepara a partire, Gustav va
per l'ultima volta a spiare il ragazzo sulla spiaggia; per un attimo s'illude di
scorgere nel suo sguardo un lampo di complicità, ma s'abbatte al suolo,
Der Zauberberg/ Magic Mountain
Hans Castorp is a young engineer who visits his cousin Joachim at the
Swiss sanatorium where he has already spent a few months.
Hans, who grew up an orphan (ie, exposed to death since a child), has three
weeks to spend there, among the sick and the dying, before returning to Hamburg
and starting his new career.
He meets Behrens, the doctor, and Krokowski, the psycoanalyst.
He meets some of the patients and realizes what a peculiar community that is:
these people are dying and cling on life, and somehow their vain lives mirror
what happens in society at large.
The two most important acquaitances are Settembrini, an Italian philosopher,
and Clavdia Chauchat, am enchanting Russian woman, married, who soon becomes
The gallery of characters seems pointless, as they come and go without
dramatically altering the life of the hero, but they signal the variety of
the human race and the passage of time.
One day Hans realizes that he has a fever. He has been living in denial of his
decaying health but soon has to subject himself to Behrens' visits.
Little by little he becomes part of that community that initially he looked
upon with disdain. He begins to feel at home among them.
Soon it is one year since his arrival.
He remains even when Joachim leaves, determined to join the army,
when Settembrini moves in with the Jesuit Naphta
and when Clavdia departs (mysteriously, after a carnival night spent with Hans).
Joachim returns only to die.
Clavdia comes back, but escorted by the old and rich Mynheer Peeperkorn,
who understands Hans' feelings and teaches him a lesson in life, but only to
end up suicide himself.
The friendship between Settembrini and Naphta ends tragically, with a duel
after a heated argument (they have been fighting for Hans' soul):
Settembrini shoots in the air and Naphta shoots himself.
Clavdia disappears again and Hans is left with the company of Settembrini.
After seven years at the sanatorium, it is Hans' time to leave and join the
army, where, again, he can smell the stench of death.
It is a novel obsessed with time and death.
At the same it is a pretext for Mann to explore the new ideas of the new
century: psycoanalysis, science, the world war,
Mann identifies the sick community of the sanatorium with the sick Europe
of his time. People are barely alive but they think they can make grand
speeches and live grand lives, and that is also true of all "sane" humans.
Except the ones in the sanatorium know that they are doomed, whereas the
ones outside are truly insane in thinking they have any better grasp on life.
If English is your first language and you could translate the old Italian text, please contact me.
Joseph und seine Brueder/ Joseph and His Brothers (1943)
is by far the most boring of Thomas Mann's novels, an endless retelling of
the Old Testament
from Jacob to Joseph
that Mann wrote between 1926 and 1943, wasting 17 years of
his life. It consists of four parts:
"The Tales of Jacob" (a rewrite of "Genesis 27-36"),
"The Young Joseph" (a rewrite of "Genesis 37"),
"Joseph in Egypt" (a rewrite of "Genesis 38-40"),
"Joseph the Provider" (a rewrite of "Genesis 41-50").
Each requires a lot of patience (besides a lot of time); and a passion for
To make things worse, Mann weaves tales of ancient Mesopotamia into the
Biblical narrative, resulting in a cacophony of names and legends.
Ironically, by the time Mann completed this tetralogy, Mann's home country of
exterminated quite a few of the Jews who might have had something to say
(Mann had already moved to Switzerland, France and the USA).
He was neither an anthropologist nor an archeologist, but in this book he also
attempted to draw a social fresco of the ancient lands of Canaan, Egypt, and
Mesopotamia around 1400 BC.
As far as fiction and chronicle goes, the Old Testament of the Jews is
a bad book, full of contradictions, of implausible claims, of
unexplained coincidences. Plenty of Jewish theologians have made a living
out of trying to provide rational explanations for the hodgepodge of
stories contained in the "Tanakh".
The Jewish god is a terrible historian, but a decent playwright, and so
no surprise that over the centuries many writers have turned parts of
the "Tanakh" into tragedies or paintings or operas.
The "Tanakh" was augmented over the centuries by folk legends that two
books written by Mann's contemporaries tried to summarize:
Levy Ginzberg's "The Legends of the Jews" (1909)
and Micha Josef Berdyczewski's "Die Sagen der Juden/ Tales of the Jews" (1914).
In fact, Berdyczewski wrote a novel titled
"Joseph and His Brothers" (1917) based on the legends that he had collected.
Therefore Mann's cyclopic four-part novel is basically a "remix" of
Berdyczewski's original novel.
After a semi-delirious prelude that evokes the ancient civilizations of
Mesopotamia, and revisits the original versions of legends such as the
Universal Flood and the Tower of Babel, and meditations of the story-teller
himself about the role of the story-teller, we are introduced to
the young Joseph, a demented boy who is standing naked by a well and flirting
with the Moon, and
to his father Jacob. Roughly, we are
in the 14th century BC.
Jacob receives the visit of Jebshe, who is carrying
a statuette of his city's hermaphroditic goddess Ashtera, and who provides
a summary of world news, from Egypt to Syria, from the Hittites to the Mitanni.
Jacob tells Jebshe that his goddess Ashtera is actually Abraham's god El.
Joseph listens carefully, then would like to hang out with his brothers but
is rejected by Gad.
Joseph is Jacob's favorite son. One reason is taht
Joseph told his father that his brother Reuben had sex with Bilhah, a concubine
whom his father was given. Reuben only wanted to defend the legitimate wife
Leah (after the death of the real wife Rachel) but couldn't resist the
sexual attraction for Bilhah.
Then the novel rewinds back in time to Jacob's youth and recounts
how he, helped by his mother Rebecca, tricked his blind father Isaac
(Abraham's son) into giving
him his elder brother Esau's right to be recognized as firstborn.
Jacob, then, fled to Mesopotamia for fear of Esau's revenge.
Jacob had 12 sons
(from both Leah and Bilhah)
and only one daughter Dinah, from Leah.
Jacob, also named Israel, led his tribe to Canaan, with his women, slaves,
sheep, goats, etc. They settled peacefully near the town of Shechem, a place
ruled by Hamor that worshipped the god Baal and had been conquered by Egypt;
and Jacob built the deep well so his tribe would have its own source of water.
Four years later Hamor's son Sichem fell in love with the 13-year-old Dinah.
Jacob's eldest son Reuben and others who were teenagers like Simeon and Levi
had always wanted to attack the city but Jacob vetoed the idea.
Jacob had his own skeletons in the closet.
When Jacob had fled the furious Esau, he had been taken in by
his uncle Laban, his mother Rebecca's brother, who had a gorgeous daughter
Rachel with whom Jacob had fallen in love. Jacob had offered to work seven years for free
in exchange for Laban's permission to marry Rachel, but had then been tricked by
Laban who, on their wedding night, had exchanged Rachel with Rachel's older sister Leah. Jacob had nonetheless married his beloved Rachel too and had had one
child from her, Joseph; which explains why Joseph was the favorite.
(Side note: according to old custom, Laban had murdered his infant son and buried him in the walls of his house during its construction).
At the time that Jacob arrived in Canaan his wife Rachel was still alive,
his mother Rebecca was dead and his father Isaac was alone and blind.
Jacob was reluctant to oppose Sichem's and Dinah's love because of his own
love story with Rachel. His sons, instead, were just looking for a pretext
to seize the town. The problem was that Abraham had told Isaac not to marry
a woman from Canaan, and Isaac had told Joseph the same, and so Joseph
felt that there was a veto against the Hebrews and the Canaanites marrying
together. Sichem and all the males of the town accepted to be circumcised
in order for the two tribes to be united through the marriage but Jacob's sons
still objected. Then Sichem simply kidnapped Dinah. Jacob's sons,
led by Reuben,
had their excuse to carry out a massacre, killing Sechem and most of
the other citizens. Jacob was ashamed of his own sons. He took Dinah, now
pregnant, and moved on, returning to Hebron.
The news of the massacre traveled to the nearby towns and everybody stood
in awe of those murderous Hebrews.
After Rachel's death Isaac also dies. Jacob meets with Esau to bury their
father. Here we are told the details of what happened when Jacob stole
the birthright from Esau, fled to Laban's house, fell in love with Rachel,
was forced to marry Leah, had Joseph from Rachel, the other sons from
Leah and Bilhah. Now Jacob's tribe is moving towards Hebron and two women
are pregnant: Dinah and Rachel. Rachel dies giving birth to
Benjamin/Benoni, the last of Jacob's 12 sons, the second from Rachel.
From this point on the narrative is chronological and easier to follow,
but it is nothing more than Biblical nonsense told in pompous sentences.
Jacob's tribe is living in tents outside the walls of Jericho
when the 17-year-old Joseph is being educated by
his tutor, Eliezer, a freedman (and bastard son) of his Jacob's father Abraham
(who tells stories of Abraham, the founder of Damascus and its first king),
and being hated by his brothers because he is obviously Jacob's favorite.
Jacob can take advantage of Reuben's affair with
Bilhah to curse him and bestow on Joseph the
blessing of Abraham, that Jacob himself had in turn stolen from Esau.
Joseph is also subject to ecstatic seizures and dreams, which further
alienate his brothers and scare even little Benjamin.
One day when Jacob's ten sons except Joseph and Benjamin are far away Jacob
gives Joseph a gift: the robe which Laban gave to Rachel for her wedding night
but that then turned out to be hiding Leah. It is a symbolic gift, but of
great importance. Joseph is vain and wears it in front of his brothers,
further arousing their jealousy.
Annoyed by another of his self-serving prophetic dreams (that basically
announce his destiny as their leader), the brothers decide to get rid
of him once and for all, and thus throw him into a pit and leave him there
to die, tied and boud.
(Until now Joseph has been depicted, whether voluntarily or not, by Mann in
such a negative manner that we almost feel glad for his misfortune).
Joseph is saved by a caravan leader, a old merchant, who is passing by with his son-in-law Mibsam, his nephew Epher, and his sons Kedar and Kedema.
Meanwhile Reuben and the others are being devoured by remorse and eventually
find a solution: rescue Joseph and then sell him into slavery.
When the caravan appears, they prepare to sell them the brother who (they think)
is still lying at the bottom of the pit. Informed by the old man that the boy
has been rescued, they simply tell him that Joseph is one of their slaves,
punished for being a congenital liar. The old man offers to buy the slave and
they gladly accept.
The remorseful Reuben is actually at the pit, trying in vain to find Joseph
alive. When he gets back to his brothers' camp he learns the news that Joseph
has been sold into slavery. The brothers swear not to tell the truth to their
father and to simply bring him back to fabled robe, letting Jacob think that
Joseph died of a wild animal's attack.
The old caravan trader confides to Joseph that they are carrying him to the
court of the Egyptian pharaoh. Joseph stands in awe of the famous king's name,
and decides to change his own name to
Usarsiph/Osarseph (Mann often uses different spellings for proper names).
After a long journey they enter Egypt and Joseph even passes by the pyramids.
Joseph is mesmerized by the architecture of the capital Waset (Mann misspells
it as Weset-per-Amur),
which Joseph nicknams No and the Greeks would later refer to as Thebes.
He is also amazed at the cosmopolitan character of the city, in which Beduins,
Numidians and all sorts of races coexist.
The old trader sells Joseph to the wealthy and powerful Potiphar/ Petepre,
who works for the pharaoh. He also sees for the first time the master's wife,
Mut-em-enet/ Eni. Before parting from the caravan, Joseph kisses the robe of
the old man who has sold him to the Egyptians, treating him like a father.
Joseph has time to consider that his slavery in Egypt (due to the treachery of
his brothers) parallels his father Jacob's life in Egypt (when he fled from
the wrath of his brother Esau), but we are already told by the narrator that
Joseph will remain in captivity for the rest of his life, returning home only
to die. We are told that he will remain in the service of Potiphar for ten
years, and the last
three of those ten years will be dominated by the mood of a woman.
Joseph is spared field work and kept in the house of the master,
The highly educated Joseph/Usarsiph/Osarseph is protected by the house's
overseer Mont-kaw, the oldest servant, who will become like another father to him,
but hated by the reactionary dwarf Dudu, who is outraged that the foreign slave
is granted privileges,
while loved by another dwarf, the mock-vizier Bes, also hated by Dudu.
Potiphar/Petepre is captain of the royal guard, head executioner and
warden of the royal prison.
One day Joseph overhears a conversation between
Potiphar's parents, the twins Huia and Tuia, and
Potiphar/Petepre is a eunuch, having been castrated by his parents
according to an Egyptian custom, and the marriage to Mut/Eni is purely
formal, and she is probably still a virgin: she calls herself the bride of the sun-god Amun/Re.
Thanks to Bes, Joseph is assigned to the gardens and there one day he meets
Potiphar/Petepre in person. In the next seven years Joseph becomes a trusted
servant of the master.
It is a mystery why he doesn't communicate with his father, at least to tell
him that he's alive. Instead, Joseph seems to enjoy the Egyptian lifestyle
and being a slave at Potiphar/Petepre's court.
After seven years Mont-kaw dies and, in a moving last speech, makes him
his successor as overseer of the house.
Then the story with Mut/Eni begins. This is told in 180 pages out of 1,200
(and mostly from Eni's perspective).
The narrator begins by telling us that he is shocked by the way the story
has been traditionally told. The way this narrator tells us the story is
different because he begins by telling us about Eni's sacrifice: she was still
a child when she was given in marriage to the castrated Petepre.
Ironically, Dudu's complaints against the chosen successor of Mont-kaw end up
drawing Eni's attention to the handsome slave she has always ignored.
She is initially disturbed by her attraction for the slave and finds an excuse
to ask her husband to dismiss Joseph.
Petepre loves his wife very much and generally listens to her, but he bursts
out laughing when he realizes that she has been influenced by Dudu, who
notoriously hates Joseph.
Dudu then changes tactic. He becomes kind to Joseph in order to act as
a gobetween. He slowly but steadily creates the belief in Mut/Eni that Joseph
would reciprocate her love. She confesses her unspeakable attraction for
the slave, and Dudu pretends to help her. It is Dudu who architects their
first meeting; but Joseph does not realize what Mut/Eni wants from him and only
discusses the business of the house.
Dudu seconds his mistress' secret love. It takes three
years: first she loves him in secret, then she lets Joseph know of it,
then she offers him her love explicitly. Finally, Dudu delivers a note
by Mut/Eni (written in hieroglyphics) that invites Joseph to sleep with her;
and then she invites him to a business meeting in which she openly discloses
her passion for him. She even proposes to kill Petepre. Joseph is terrified
and leaves. Two people have been eavesdropping without being seen: the two
dwarves. They briefly fight, then Dudu runs to tell the master his version
of the facts while Bes runs to warn Joseph about it.
The narrator draws the parallel to when his brothers threw Joseph in the pit:
he is being dropped into another pit.
Dudu tells Petepre that Osarsiph/Joseph is threatening to steal his wife
and to take his life, and admits that he, Dudu, tempted the woman to find out
to what degree she had been seduced by the young slave's beauty. Dudu frankly
tells his boss that he expects to be awarded Osarsiph's management position.
Petepre instead grabs a stick and beats Dudu. Meanwhile, Mut/Eni becomes
more and more explicit in her overtures to Osarsiph. She even confesses her
passion to her female friends convened for a party. When the female friends
see Osarsiph (Mut specifically ordered him to serve their wine) the
distinguished ladies of the aristocracy injure themselves (he entered while
they were peeling apples). The head priestess herself is shocked to hear
that the slave has dared to reject the lady, and takes it as an insult to the
Egyptian nation. This friend tells her husband Beknechons, the chief zealot
of Amun's nationalist cult, who also gets furious and threatens to use force
in order to make Osarsiph submit to Mut's desire. The dwarf Bes informs
Osarsiph of what is going on, and Osarsiph/Joseph interprets the whole plot
as a fight between the god of the Hebrews and the god of the Egyptians,
and pledges to remain royal to his god, the god of his ancestor Abraham.
Mut even tries the magic spells of a black witch but to no avail.
The Egyptian nation celebrates the beginning of the rise of the Nile with
a big party all over Thebes. Everybody gets intoxicated, including Mut/Eni.
She summons Osarsiph to her room while everybody is out, and then she
tries to seduce him. Rejected one more time, she screams. When people arrive,
she claims that Osarsiph has tried to rape her. Dudu can enjoy his revenge
when he sees Osarsiph arrested. Petepre's judgment is not as severe as it
could be: first of all he has Dudu's tongue cut in half, judging him to be a
traitor, and then he sentences Osarsiph to jail. The young slave does not
utter a word in his defense.
The narrator comments that Joseph committed the same sin towards his brothers
as towards Mut: in both cases someone ended up being hurt by his success,
and took revenge on him by throwing into a pit.
Joseph is sent to the island fortres of Zawi-Re and soon becomes the protege
of the governor Mai-Sachme, who also happens to be a physician ahead of his
time. Mai-Sachme appreciates Joseph's intellectual skills and saves him from
the hard labor that is maiming and killing the other convicts. The conditions
of the prison greatly improve under Joseph's management. And Mai-Sachme is
also curious to hear Joseph's adventures.
One day Joseph/Osarsiph is assigned two new convicts who belong to the royal
aristocracy: the chief baker, a prince, and the chief butler, a count.
They are accused of having conspired to poison the pharaoh.
One of the pharaoh's concubines, nicknamed Isis, was so influenced by the legend
of Isis and Re that, starting from the harem, she created a conspiracy to
assassinate the pharaoh and install her son, Noferta-Ptah,
a bastard son of the pharaoh, as new king. The conspiracy had been discovered
and 72 people found to have participated in it.
Joseph becomes good friend with the two distinguished prisoners and one
day interprets their dreams as indicating that one will be executed and the
other one will be released.
The baker is eventually found guilty and sentenced to death. The count/butler
is released as innocent but he quickly forgets that he had promised Joseph
to intercede with the pharaoh about his case.
On the third year of his captivity Joseph/Osarsiph is suddenly summoned to
the pharaoh in person. What has happened is that Amenhotep IV reached the age
of 16 and became officially the ruler, with his regent mother Tye surrendering
all political power to him, and his wife Nefertiti becoming the new queen.
Joseph had been affected by the new government because Amenhotep IV had
commissioned new temples and this had resulted in more work for the convicts
Then one day the pharaoh,
who was already known to be frequently seized by ecstatic states,
had woken up from a nightmare about
seven cows and seven ears of corn. The royal dream interpreters had failed
to provide him with a credible interpretation.
The pharaoh was notoriously a fan of the god Aton, and the high priest of Amun
was plotting against him, so the whole affair had political overtones.
The butler, finally, remembered that Osarsiph had correctly interpreted his
dream back in the prison and advised the pharaoh to consult the convict slave.
Hence Joseph/Osarsiph is received by the pharaoh in person and by his mother
in the fabled city of On, where a great obelisk has been erected.
Joseph/Osarsiph easily interprets the dream: the dream is foretelling seven
years of abundance followed by seven years of famine.
The pharaoh is impressed not only by the soothsaying but also by the story
of Osarsiph's god, of how his ancestor Abraham made a covenant with such god.
The mother admonishes the teenage king that measures must be taken to protect
from the seven years of famine, and Osarsiph is quick to list what must be done:
somebody must be put in charge of overseeing the seven-year operation to
prepare for the seven years of drought.
The pharaoh, who also sees a political advantage in his fight against the house
of Amun and in his colonial ambitions, promptly hires Osarsiph as the manager
Osarsiph, settled in the city of Menfe with a host of Nubian and Egyptian
servants, and with Mai-Sachme as his housekeeper,
becomes first an influential manager and then a close friend of
the pharaoh, who, influenced by Osarsiph's monotheism, changes
his own name to Ikh-n-Aton (Akhenaten)
and turns the worship of Aton into monotheism,
even dreaming of building an entire new city devoted to the worship of the
only god Aton.
Osarsiph marries Asenath, the 16-year-old daughter of the high priest of Re
at On, from whom he has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and then other unnamed
The pharaoh, instead, only has six daughters, and no son, from Nefertiti,
and lives surrounded by women: Nefertiti, his mother, his sister, his wife's
sister and the six girls.
Meanwhile, Jacob, now 100 years old, is still mourning the lost son.
His faithful companion is now Tamar, a young woman.
Jacob tells Tamar the stories of Abraham and his tribe, as well as the legend
of Shiloh, the messiah to come.
Tamar becomes obsessed with becoming the ancestral mother of this Shiloh,
and her plan focuses on
Leah's fourth son Judah/Jehudah, the brother who had the idea to save Joseph from the pit and sell him instead into slavery, and who is still haunted by remorse.
She is too young to marry Judah but not too old to marry his sons.
And so she marries
Judah's eldest son Er, who dies while having sex with her, and then
Judah's second Onan, who also dies. Judah is reluctant to let her marry the
third and last one and sends her away. Tamar obeys but then,
disguised as a prostitute, she tempts Judah into a
one-night-stand that makes her pregnant (of twins, one being Peretz, David's
ancestor). Then she reveals her real identity to Judah, who accepts her.
Sha has achieved her goal to become part of the lineage from which the Shiloh
will be born.
Meanwhile in Egypt the prediction of the drought comes true: the Nile fails
to rise, and Egypt is saved from starvation by Joseph's preparations.
People come from all over the region to buy food from his royal warehouses.
Some of them travel from very far, because famine is spreading. And one day
his own brothers, ten of them, show up, asking to buy food for Jacob's tribe.
Joseph does not reveal himself but asks questions about the family, and so
he learns that his father is still alive, and then Benjamin is married and
doing well but was left at home with the father. Jacon informs Mai of whom
they are. Together they decide on a little prank. Joseph accuses them of
being spies sent by enemies to provide information about Egypt's wealth,
and demands that they bring back Benjamin in order to prove that their stories
are true. Simeon, one of the brothers who was particularly mean to Joseph,
will remain as hostage. Joseph lets the other nine leave with plenty of food
and even secretely returns the money they paid. When the brothers return to
Jacob's place (a very long journey), Jacob is initially reluctant to send
Benjamin away, having already lost Joseph and Simeon on distant journeys,
but eventually Benjamin himself asks to go. When the ten brothers return to
Egypt, Joseph again does not reveal his identity to them but enjoys the
view of his full brother Benjamin. Joseph even asks Benjamin to convince
Jacob to move the entire tribe to Egypt. The brothers are amazed by the
kindness and generosity of the Egyptian lord, who even throws a party in
their honor and let them take even more food back to Jacob.
They are amazed that he knows so much about them: he knows their names
and can even rank them in order of age. When Benjamin asks him the secret
of his wisdom, Joseph replies that his divining power comes from
drinking for a silver cup. The brothers leave for their return trip home
but they are soon chased and stopped by Mai's troops: the silver cup has
been stolen. The brothers are outraged that Mai would suspect them of
theft but a search reveals that Benjamin is the thief. Thus Benjamin has
to become a slave of Joseph. Judah, who has become the spokesman for the
brothers, refuses to leave the youngest brother
and asks that all the brothers be allow to intercede with Joseph.
Judah explains that he cannot possibly go back to Jacob and tell him that
another son has been lost after his son Joseph was sold as a slave by them.
He has confessed to Joseph. Joseph, moved by the confession, finally reveals
himself to be that long-lost brother. Joseph releases them and sends his
regards to his father Jacob. The pharaoh himself, who is busy building the
divine city of Akhetaton, is pleased to hear the news.
The brothers travel back to Canaan and the little daughter of one of them,
Serah, is charged with delivering the news to Jacob. Somehow she has to sing
the news in cryptic lines instead of just telling him (which sounds like
a useless torture inflicted on an old man). Finally Jacob understands and,
delighted (without inquiring how his son Joseph ended up living in Egypt
and therefore never learning of how his other sons had sold him in slavery)
make preparations to travel to Egypt. The whole extended family follows him
about 70 people, and carry him in a litter. They follow the caravan route
to the Niles delta in 17 days. When they arrive, Joseph is alerted and travels
to meet his father. Joseph arrives escorted by his retinue that even includes
Joseph argues that Abraham's god El sent him to Egypt so that he could
eventually save Israel/Jacob from the famine.
Joseph announces that they can settle there. Even the pharaoh
himself visits the old Jacob, the patriarch of the monotheistic tribe.
Feeling that his days are numbered, Jacob asks his son Joseph to be buried
in Canaan. On his deathbed Jacob tells Judah of the Shiloh that has to come
(the messiah, perhaps Mann's Jesus).
When Jacob finally dies, Joseph has him mummified by the royal surgeons
before a royal funeral to which the whole royal court is invited.
The whole story is so incredibly implausible: that this Joseph was never tell
his father that he is alive, that it would be easier for the whole tribe to
travel to Egypt than for the news of Joseph's situation to travel to Canaan.
(You will not find a detailed summary of these novels because nobody ever
read them, in my humble opinion).
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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