The Death of Ahasuerus, 1960
Ahasuerus (ah-hah-sew-AY-ruhs), the legendary Wandering Jew, identified in the narrative only as “the stranger.” He meets Tobias and Diana in an inn for pilgrims to the Holy Land and accompanies them until Diana is killed and Tobias subsequently boards a ship falsely represented as bound for the Holy Land. Ahasuerus has been cursed with eternal meaningless life for having refused to let Jesus, bearing his cross to Golgotha, rest against his house. To Ahasuerus, the Holy Land is death, the object of his longing. He finds death, and peace, after realizing that Christ was his brother in suffering, not his savior, and that God is for humans a hindrance to the divine, not the agent of their access to it. Like Sophocles’ Oedipus, he acquires his insight after becoming blind; like Saul of Tarsus, he gains his revelation in a burst of bright light.
Tobias, a bandit, former soldier, and reluctant pilgrim to the Holy Land. Having chanced upon the day-old corpse of a middle-aged woman, a pilgrim bearing the stigmata (nail-wound scars of the crucified Christ), he vows, perplexedly, to complete her pilgrimage for her. He is followed by her dog, as Tobias in the Book of Tobit is followed by a dog. Tobias is a tormented man with repressed memories, an indefinable longing, and a bent for cruelty.
Diana, a huntress living in the wilds who, after being raped by Tobias, attaches herself to him and remains devoted to him despite his despicable treatment of her. She places herself in the path of an arrow aimed directly at Tobias. As she dies, Tobias, at her request, once more calls her Diana, the name he had given her. Tobias and “the stranger” bury her beneath an evergreen oak, the tree sacred to the goddess Diana.