‘Wotanism’, and his analysis of the phenomenon was titled The Third Walpurgisnacht. In the end, as the brown plague crept nearer, and his energy began to fail, Kraus lapsed into despairing silence. The last number of Die Fackel appeared in 1934, the year that Dollfuss was assassinated in a failed Nazi putsch, and Kraus himself died in 1936 – which was perhaps a mercy, since he did not live to see
Hitler absorb his Austrian homeland in the Anschluss two years later. Not a personal biography so much as a cultural study (Kraus’s lifelong relationship with a woman is given short shrift, and his death takes up only half a line), Timms’s work is a massive and worthy memorial, not just to a brave and original spirit, but to the way of life that vanished with him.
B ERNARD G REEN A DIFFERENT SCRIPT
J OHN M ARCO A LLEGRO : T HE M AVERICKOF THE D EAD S EA S CROLLS
★By Judith Anne Brown (Eerdmans 288pp £14.99)
T HISISA very sad book: sad because it recounts a life of early brilliance that ended in frustration and disappointment, and sad because it is the poignant endeavour of a daughter to rediscover and, in the process, rehabilitate her father. John Allegro was the first English scholar to study the Dead Sea Scrolls, joining the international team that was reconstructing and deciphering them in 1953. He was the first of the international team working on the scrolls to publicise and popularise their findings, in a best-selling paperback of 1956. But in 1970, his notorious The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross made him a laughing stock and destroyed his academic reputation. He died on his sixtyfifth birthday in 1988, and in that early and unexpected death, as his daughter remarks, ‘All the hopes and endeavors of sixty-five years simply stopped … all stopped.’ Allegro came up the hard way. Although his father had been commissioned during the First World War, the family’s fortunes did not prosper and he had to leave grammar school at sixteen. It was 1939, and the Second World War gave him his chance. Service in the Royal Navy led to a commission and the discovery of a vocation to the Methodist ministry. Training for the ministry after the War revealed an aptitude for biblical languages and led to a degree in oriental languages at Manchester funded by the government’s scheme to further the education of ex-servicemen. He was in the middle of a doctorate at Oxford when he was recommended, in 1953, to join the small international team of experts working on the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. It was the opportunity of a
lifetime. He was only thirty. Scrolls had first been found by a shepherd boy in 1947 in a cave overlooking the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, at a place called Qumran. Eventually eleven caves were excavated there, yielding the remains of over 750 documents in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Further finds were made elsewhere in the Judean desert. They were dated to the period 130 BC to AD 50, being thus by far the oldest substantial manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic. Nearly all the books of the Old Testament are represented among the finds – discoveries of major significance in reconstructing the history of the biblical text. A number of apocryphal and pseudepigraphic books that were already known were also found. Furthermore, texts were discovered that appeared to be unique to the people who had housed their books in these caves, a group who had their own distinctive, apocalyptic brand of Judaism. As the caves were on the hill above the ruins of what appeared to have been a Jewish community that had existed in the same period as the manuscripts, it was quickly concluded that the scrolls were their library. John Allegro arrived in Jerusalem to work on the scrolls just as all these new possibilities about understanding the early text of the Old Testament and the character of Judaism in the era before and during the lifetime of Jesus were opening up. He brought to the task two qualities which made him different from the other members of the team. First, whereas the rest of the team were devout Christians, in most cases Catholic priests, he had lost his faith in Christianity and had begun to be not merely sceptical but aggressively antiChristian. Secondly, whereas the others were content to work very slowly in piecing together what was still being found, he was avid for publicity and was more than willing to put into the public domain conclusions that had not yet been tested by the academic community. Allegro always believed he was fighting clerical obscurantism when he rushed into print ahead of the others; they thought he was a maverick self-publicist unrestrained by due scholarly caution.
Allegro: doing the edges first
LITERARY REVIEW Dec 2005 / Jan 2006