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The first biography in more than a generation of the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the state of Israel.
Shlomo Avineri is a renowned Israeli political theorist and public intellectual. He is Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He served as Director-General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His books, which have been translated into many languages, include THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT OF KARL MARX, HEGEL'S THEORY OF THE MODERN STATE, MOSES HESS: PROPHET OF COMMUNISM AND ZIONISM and THE MAKING OF MODERN ZIONISM. He held visiting appointments at, among others, Yale, Cornell, University of California, Oxford, the Central European University in Budapest as well as the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the recipient of the ISRAEL PRIZE, the country's highest civilian decoration. He translated Marx's EARLY WRITINGS into Hebrew and wrote the historical Introduction to the 3-volume Hebrew edition of Herzl's DIARIES. Haim Watzman has translated and edited many important Israeli books by some of the country's leading journalists, scholars and writers - among them David Grossman, Tom Segev and Amos Oz. His fiction and essays appear regularly in his 'Necessary Stories' column in THE JERUSALEM REPORT. He is also the author of two books of his own: COMPANY C: AN AMERICAN'S LIFE AS A CITIZEN-SOLDIER IN ISRAEL and A CRACK IN THE EARTH: A JOURNEY UP ISRAEL'S RIFT VALLEY, and is currently completing the manuscript of a collection of short stories about the Israeli army. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Ilana. His website is http://southjerusalem.com.
Avineri rightly sums up Herzl's work as a 'glorious failure that produced impressive results'. It is Avineri's understanding of the exigencies and difficulties of politics for a mere private individual, without money or official status that makes this book well worth reading. * ANGLO-ISRAEL ASSOCIATION * What Avineri gives us is a fine-grained and tender portrait of the Hungarian-born Herzl as a feverish romantic, dodgy dramatist, prolific writer and political organizer, a vibrant man whose energy and devotion to finding a national solution for a Jewish state were palpable and exhausting. -- Duncan Kelly * TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT * Herzl is an excellent biography of a great man and as such long overdue. -- Lord Mitchell * THE HOUSE * Herzl [is telling] the story of Zionism from the beginning, one of the strangest, most romantic, most bewildering episodes in modern history, and to this day one of the most bitterly contentious. -- Geoffrey Wheatcroft * THE SPECTATOR * In this book Avineri has reclaimed Herzl from the propagandists. -- Colin Shindler * HISTORY TODAY * This Herzl remains a charismatic figure whose story is a romance. And so, in some measure, it should be, because that is how Herzl functioned and why he succeeded. He combined Disraeli's charm and political genius, Marx's analytical insight, and the towering authority of his people's lawgiver, Moses. -- Bernard Wasserstein * THE TABLET * Magnificent -- Daniel Johnson * STANDPOINT * It was Austrian politics, not a French miscarriage of justice [the Dreyfuss case], which moved Herzl towards Jewish separatism, Avineri explains, with a rather more complex story than the one the professor tells us is taught to Israeli schoolchildren. Political liberalism had ended official anti-Jewish discrimination in Austria and widened the franchise; but, to the horror of liberals like Herzl, anti-Semitic demagogues were elected. It seemed that the more democratic Austrian society was, the more anti-Semitic it became. -- Jad Adams * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH * What...Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political sciences at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, offers is a different perspective on Herzl's life. Professor Avineri largely relies on Herzl's own writings, especially his obsessively written diary, rather than so much on secondary sources as many other books do. This device has the advantage of explaining Herzl's thoughts, as well as his actions. -- Alistair Dawber * THE INDEPENDENT * The great strength of Avineri's immensely readable biography is to deliver Herzl in all his tortured complexity and - something not always given its due - the philosophical clarity of his diagnosis of what had befallen the Jews in the modern age and what might be done about their predicament. He had the beard of a poet but a brain for realpolitik. As one might expect from Avineri, who is first and foremost a powerful historian of political thought, this is the most chewily cogent account yet of Herzl the political thinker and doer. -- Simon Schama * FINANCIAL TIMES * How Herzl conjured up the idea of a Jewish state out of the air is the subject of this book. It is a political biography; of Herzl's family life, his loves and his hatreds we learn little. With almost nothing but his will, he wrote, cajoled, talked and organised Zionism into existence. Between 1895 and 1897, in two short years, he provided the movement with its key text (Der Judenstaat), its destination (Palestine) and its organisational birth (the first Zionist Congress in Basle). Then he hawed his ideas around the leaders of Europe, to see if he could make a reality from the dream. These unlikely peregrinations are captured perfectly by Avineri. Without them there would have been no Israel. -- David Aaronovitch * THE TIMES * Turning the idea of Jewish nationhood into an organised movement was Herzl's work of genius, which is expounded by Avineri with scholarship, sensitivity and wisdom. -- Oliver Kamm * The JC.COM *