The wrong Nero

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Title page of the first print in 1936

The false Nero is a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger . The novel was first published in 1936 by Querido-Verlag , Amsterdam. In Germany it could only appear in the Aufbau-Verlag in 1947 . The novel was translated into numerous languages ​​and is still very popular today.


The action takes place in Syria at the time of the Roman Emperor Titus , eleven years after the death of Emperor Nero . The former Senator Varro has withdrawn to Syria, he lost his former powers under the new imperial family. To make matters worse, Governor Cejon, an old enemy of youth, Varros, is summoned to the Syrian province. In order to prove his still great influence, he lets the work-shy potter Terenz slip into the role of the dead emperor Nero in order to achieve his political goals. Due to his amazing resemblance and great acting talent, the people soon believed in the resurrection of Nero. Intoxicated by the cheers for himself and incited by his accountant Knops and the Roman general Trebon, the puppet Varros gets out of control.


Given the historical background of the time this novel was written, the book is widely viewed as a satire about the Nazi regime. Without the processing of the partially historical material for Feuchtwanger's "False Nero" being able to be laid like a template on the historical reality of the Nazi dictatorship, some of the figures bear unmistakable characteristics of the then leading Nazi personalities. Character traits of Adolf Hitler can be found in the representation of Terence , Terence 'Advisor Knops has characteristics of Joseph Goebbels ', and Hermann Göring can be found in the representation of the Roman general Trebon .

The great flood on the city of Apamea, which was instigated by Terence's people and for which the Christians were then accused, would correspond to the Reichstag fire of 1933, behind which Feuchtwanger suspected the National Socialists themselves. The "week of knives and daggers", in which Knops and Trebon play as the "avengers of Nero" and have alleged enemies of the state eliminated, has a parallel in the Röhm putsch , which is also known as the night of the long knives .

The differences between the Nazi reality and the plot of the book are above all that rule is initially not an idea of ​​the potter Terenz and that his desire for representation and fame - in contrast to Hitler - has no direct, political dimension. Also, Varro - the real mastermind - did not aim to rule an allegedly higher race with his "Experiment Nero", rather romantic-humanistic reasons moved him, namely the merging of East and West.

A metaphorical comparison is also conceivable, a criticism of the blindness of the crowd. For example, the people react to the proscriptions and the night of the murder of rebellious and uncomfortable citizens not only with disgust and indignation, but also with awe and admiration: “The masses, after the initial shock, loved and adored their Nero all the more because of it its energy and dark splendor, and they forgot their increasing hunger for the greatness of their emperor. ”Feuchtwanger pointedly shows how quickly any rule can lose its luster:“ Nero was Nero as long as one believed in him. ”


  • First edition: Querido, Amsterdam 1936, 422 pp.
  • English translation: The Pretender. Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. Viking Press, New York 1937
  • GDR: Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 1947.
  • Collected works in individual volumes. Vol. 9. Structure, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-351-02209-3
  • Paperback: Aufbau Taschenbuchverlag, Berlin 2008 (3rd edition), ISBN 978-3-7466-5632-8


  • Klaus Müller-Salget: Updated Antiquity? Lion Feuchtwanger's "The Wrong Nero". In: Olaf Hildebrand (Ed.): "... thrilled on classical ground". Rombach, Freiburg im Breisgau 2004, ISBN 3-7930-9382-4 . Pp. 419-432
  • Christa Heine Teixeira: Lion Feuchtwanger: "The wrong Nero". Contemporary criticism in the guise of a historical novel; Considerations on the creation and reception. In: Osman Durrani (Ed.): Travelers in time and space. Amsterdam contributions to modern German studies, vol. 51. Rodopi, Amsterdam 2001, ISBN 90-420-1405-9 , pp. 79-89
  • Margot Taureck: Mirrored Contemporary History. On Lion Feuchtwanger's novels "The False Nero", "The Lautensack Brothers" and "Simone". In: Wilhelm von Sternburg (ed.): Lion Feuchtwanger. Materials on life and work. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1989, ISBN 3-596-26886-9 , pp. 151-173
  • Glorianna Bisognin: Lion Feuchtwanger's "The Wrong Nero": serious play with the apocalypse? Master's thesis, Univ. Erlangen-Nuremberg 1989
  • Frédéric Teinturier: Le rire comme arme: satire et grotesque in "The False Nero" de Lion Feuchtwanger et in "Lidice" d'Heinrich Mann. In: Daniel Azuélos (Ed.): Lion Feuchtwanger and the German-speaking emigrants in France from 1933 to 1941. Yearbook for international German studies, Series A, Congress reports, vol. 76, Lang, Bern 2006, ISBN 3-03910-999-5 , Pp. 207-224
  • Sebastian Musch: "Historical, Political and Metaphysical Aspects of the East in Feuchtwanger's The False Nero", in: Feuchtwanger and Judaism. History, Imagiantion, Exile . Edited by Paul Lerner and Fritz Stern. Peter Lang, 2019. [1]


  1. p. 310.
  2. p. 335.