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Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann (Hardcover)
Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Br der) is a four-part novel by Thomas Mann, written over the course of 16 years. Mann retells the familiar stories of Genesis, from Jacob to Joseph (chapters 27-50), setting it in the historical context of the Amarna Period. Mann considered it his greatest work.
The tetralogy consists of:
The Stories of Jacob (Die Geschichten Jaakobs; written December 1926 to October 1930, Genesis 27-36)
Young Joseph (Der junge Joseph; written January 1931 to June 1932, Genesis 37)
Joseph in Egypt (Joseph in gypten; written July 1932 to 23 August 1936, Genesis 38-39)
Joseph the Provider (Joseph, der Ern hrer; written 10 August 1940 to 4 January 1943, Genesis 40-50)
Mann's presentation of the ancient Orient and the origins of Judaism is influenced by Alfred Jeremias' 1904 Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients, emphasizing Babylonian influence in the editing of Genesis, and by the work of Dmitry Merezhkovsky.
Mann sets the story in the 14th century BC and makes Akhenaten the pharaoh who appoints Joseph his vice-regent. Joseph is aged 28 at the ascension of Akhenaten, which would mean he was born about 1380 BC in standard Egyptian chronology, and Jacob in the mid-1420s BC. Other contemporary rulers mentioned include Tushratta and Suppiluliuma.
A dominant topic of the novel is Mann's exploration of the status of mythology and his presentation of the Late Bronze Age mindset with regard to mythical truths and the emergence of monotheism. Events of the story of Genesis are frequently associated and identified with other mythic topics.
Central is the notion of underworld and the mythical descent to the underworld. Jacob's sojourn in Mesopotamia (hiding from the wrath of Esau) is paralleled with Joseph's life in Egypt (exiled by the jealousy of his brothers), and on a smaller scale his captivity in the well; they are further identified with the "hellraid" of Inanna-Ishtar-Demeter, the Mesopotamian Tammuz myth, the Jewish Babylonian captivity as well as the Harrowing of Hell of Jesus Christ.