A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus

A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus


By (author) MR Frederic Raphael

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  • Publisher: Anchor Books
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 23mm | 295g
  • Publication date: 8 October 2013
  • ISBN 10: 0307456358
  • ISBN 13: 9780307456359
  • Sales rank: 458,224

Product description

From the acclaimed biographer, screenwriter, and novelist Frederic Raphael, here is an audacious history of Josephus (37-c.100), the Jewish general turned Roman historian, whose emblematic betrayal is a touchstone for the Jew alone in the Gentile world. Joseph ben Mattathias's transformation into Titus Flavius Josephus, historian to the Roman emperor Vespasian, is a gripping and dramatic story. His life, in the hands of Frederic Raphael, becomes a point of departure for an appraisal of Diasporan Jews seeking a place in the dominant cultures they inhabit. Raphael brings a scholar's rigor, a historian's perspective, and a novelist's imagination to this project. He goes beyond the fascinating details of Josephus's life and his singular literary achievements to examine how Josephus has been viewed by posterity, finding in him the prototype for the un-Jewish Jew, the assimilated intellectual, and the abiding apostate: the recurrent figures in the long centuries of the Diaspora. Raphael's insightful portraits of  Yehuda Halevi, Baruch Spinoza, Karl Kraus, Benjamin Disraeli, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Hannah Arendt extend and illuminate the Josephean worldview Raphael so eloquently lays out.

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Author information

Frederic Raphael is the author of more than twenty novels, f ive volumes of short stories, biographies of Byron and W. Somerset Maugham, and five volumes of his personal notebooks and journals. He is also the translator of, among other works, Petronius's "Satyrica" and is a regular contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement."

Review quote

"Raphael joins a distinguished line of historians of Josephus, but few have accounted for the outcast sage so vividly. Raphael's motion for acquittal is written in such spirited, lambent prose that he deserves to succeed where previous scholars have failed." --Stephen Daisley, "Commentary" "Raphael's magnificently odd book does not skimp on details about the life of Josephus . . . but the real focus is on his legacy. . . . Raphael transform Josephus, the thinking person's Judas, into a figure of tragic grandeur and connects him with a wide of range of other Jewish writers, artists, scapegoats from Baruch Spinoza, Alfred Dreyfus, and Leon Trotsky to Isaac Babel, Walter Benjamin, and Joseph Roth. . . . [An] erudite book. . . . When Raphael imagines Josephus . . . his subject, to say nothing of his subject's quandary, feels newly strange and complicated." --Tom Bissell, "Harper's" "To recalibrate Josephus' legacy in modern times, the screenwriter and novelist Frederic Raphael, who was trained in classics at Cambridge University, has written "A Jew Among Romans," an eloquent appraisal of Josephus. In the book's first part, he skillfully recounts the transformation of Joseph ben Mattathias, a descendant of priests, into Titus Flavius Josephus, confidant of emperors. . . . As Mr. Raphael's sharply etched account makes clear, the turncoat Josephus may have been a 'sponsored propagandist.' . . . In the second and bolder part of "A Jew Among Romans," Mr. Raphael casts Josephus as a prototype of the alienated 'un-Jewish Jew' in the Diaspora. . . . [I]n capturing Josephus' ambivalences and ambiguities, Mr. Raphael has with great subtlety shed light on the heirs of that fascinating figure: those memory-haunted thinkers, living on the borderlines of nations and religions, defined by the attempt to transcend the very tradition to which they were so richly indebted." --Benjamin Balint, "The Wall Street Journal" "Expansive, sometimes frustrating, n