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Daniel Deronda, George Eliot (1876)

The first, and greatest, philosemitic English novel

by
Adam Kirsch
September 17, 2013

In an English literary tradition often hostile to Jews, Daniel Deronda stands out as the first and greatest philo-Semitic novel. The title character, raised as the ward of an English nobleman, embarks on a journey of self-discovery after he rescues a Jewish woman from drowning. After overcoming his initial distaste for Judaism, he uncovers the secret that he himself was born Jewish. By the end of the book, Daniel’s decision to devote himself to creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine makes him the world’s first Zionist hero, decades before the Zionist movement was founded.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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