Stories and images from the Christian Apocrypha have appeared in popular, or ‘non-ecclesiastical’, settings since the Middle Ages when the various collections of lives of saints, books of hours, mystery plays, and incunabula repurposed apocryphal traditions for devotional purposes. Examples of such use have increased exponentially over the last century, in music (Gustav Holst’s ‘Hymn of Jesus’, Tori Amos’s ‘Original Sinsuality’), fiction (Thomas B. Costain’s The Silver Chalice, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code), television (the ‘Hollywood A.D.’ episode of The X-Files, the Banned from the Bible documentaries), and film (Rupert Wainwright’s Stigmata, Abel Ferrara’s Mary). For the most part, these works, though entertaining, misrepresent and sensationalize the content of the texts, but their value lies not in what they say about ancient texts and traditions but in what they say about the interests and anxieties of their creators and audiences.
This article shows that German government offices and private diarists and correspondents kept widely scattered but extensive records of the unfolding of the ‘Final Solution’. Anti-Jewish legislation ensured that the paper trails of persecution ran to the far corners of the German bureaucracy. Moreover, the perpetrators of anti-Jewish actions at the local and national level commemorated their deeds, in effect preparing initial drafts for a victorious history of the destruction of Jewish life. Private diaries and letters not only confirm the widespread knowledge that Germans came to share about the ‘Final Solution’, but also the process by which many of them came to endorse cruelty toward Jews.
This essay begins by contextualizing atheism in the larger history of literature, locating the first sustained uses of unbelief as a literary theme in the Western world during the first half of the nineteenth century. Schweizer then goes on to clarify fundamental terminological issues such as the distinction between atheism, Satanism, and misotheism, as well as that between implicit and explicit literary atheism. Next follow four case studies of literary atheism, as Schweizer outlines the functions and characteristics of atheism in Büchner’s Danton’s Death, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, Camus’s The Plague, and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. Schweizer concludes that the role of atheism in literature has morphed from being a touchstone for radical and existential moral questions in earlier fiction to serving as a vehicle for metafictional humour and ironic self-inspection in contemporary writing.