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Prague PalimpsestWriting, Memory, and the City$
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Alfred Thomas

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226795409

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226795416.001.0001

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Deviant Monsters and Wayward Women: The Prague Ghetto and the Legend of the Golem

Deviant Monsters and Wayward Women: The Prague Ghetto and the Legend of the Golem

(p.43) Chapter Two Deviant Monsters and Wayward Women: The Prague Ghetto and the Legend of the Golem
Prague Palimpsest

Alfred Thomas

University of Chicago Press

Like the myth of Libuše, the legend of the golem does not constitute one univocal text but resembles a palimpsest of layers. The story of the chief rabbi of Prague who invents a man of clay has inspired endless versions by many writers and filmmakers, yet it was only in the modern period that the legend assumed its present familiar form. Some early versions were not even set in Prague at all. This chapter explores the correlation between the mutating legend of the golem and the partial demolition of the ancient Jewish district in the late 1890s. Whereas Jewish writers such as Yudl Rosenberg strove to efface the historical association of the ghetto with prostitution by reinventing the golem as an unsullied hero who defends the Jews against the blood libel, the end-of-the-century generation of Prague-German writers, such as Gustav Meyrink and Paul Leppin, remained nostalgic for the vanished Judenstadt and its reputation for decay, degeneration, and prostitution.

Keywords:   golem, Prague, central Europe, Libuše, Kristián, rabbi of Prague, ancient Jewish, Prague-German writers

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