Political and Literary Answers to Some ‘Jewish Questions’: Proust, Joyce, Freud, and Herzl

  • Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi


How did Europeans of the early twentieth century look at the questions of Jewish identity and Zionism? Jews in the European world, whose lives were being shaped by European traditions of anti-Semitism on the one hand and the recent coming of the Enlightenment and capitalism on the other, had to re-define their identity. The struggles with Jewish identity, as it became separated from Judaism, are examined through the writings and the lives of Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, and Theodor Herzl. What we find is that European social realities are faithfully reflected in two great modern novels. The failure of assimilation, which led Herzl to Zionism, is thoroughly documented by the novelists, who show us that a racial conception of Jews dooms assimilation to failure. Could Europe be trusted? That was the question. Herzl was the most pessimistic, and called for desperate action; Freud was stoically optimistic, as were Proust and Joyce.


Jewish Community Jewish Identity Jewish People Standard Edition Jewish Tradition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HaifaIsrael

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