“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
In 1830, a 25-year-old writer traveled to Jerusalem. The writer was Benjamin Disraeli, and in 1833 he published a novel, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, that was an early meditation on his own Jewishness and the state of European Jewry. According to lead critic Adam Kirsch, author of a book on Disraeli, this novel is a proto-Zionist text, as much a political writing as it is an exploration of Disraeli’s thoughts on the still far-from-nascent notion of a Jewish state. All this from one trip to Jerusalem!
“But for Disraeli, a journey to Jerusalem had more than literary significance. Although he had been baptized at the age of twelve into the Church of England, Disraeli’s very name made clear that he was a Jew, and the experience of visiting the Jewish homeland was to transform the way he thought about himself, his ancestors, and politics in general,” Kirsch explained. “Almost fifty years later, when he was Prime Minister of England, it would be his destiny to redraw the maps of the countries he visited as a young man.”
Read The Road Not Taken, by Adam Kirsch
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.