Part of the Jewish Encounter series
A dandy, a best-selling novelist, and a man of political and sexual intrigue, Benjamin Disraeli was one of the most captivating figures of the nineteenth century. His flirtation with proto-Zionism, his ideas about power and empire, and his fantasies about the Middle East remain prophetically relevant today. How a man who was born a Jew--and who remained in the eyes of his countrymen a member of a despised minority--managed to become prime minister of England seems even today nothing short of miraculous.
In this compelling biography, renowned poet and critic Adam Kirsch looks at Disraeli as a novelist as well as a statesman, recognizing that the outsider Jew who became one of the world's most powerful men was his own greatest character. Though baptized by his father at the age of twelve, Disraeli was seen--and saw himself--as a Jew. But her created an idea of Jewishness to rival the British notion of aristocracy.
Disraeli was a figure of fascinating contradictions: an archconservative who benefited from England's liberal attitudes, a baptized Christian who saw Jewishness as a matter of racial superiority, a perennial outsider who dreamed of glory for England, which, in the words of one contemporary, became for Disraeli "the Israel of his imagination."
About Adam Kirsch
Adam Kirsch, a book critic for The New York Sun, is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New Republic. He is the author of two poetry collections, The Thousand Wells and Invasions, and two works of nonfiction on poetry, The Wounded Surgeon and The Modern Element. He lives in New York City.
"Adam Kirsch has produced a charming and absorbing apercu into one of the most fascinating statesmen of modern history. A delightful read.:
--Howard M. Sachar, author of A History of Israel
"Kirsch has written an important and compelling book about Benjamin Disraeli, the first Jewish prime minister of England, who famously replied, 'Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.' This engaging biography gives nuance and meaning to one of the most enigmatic men of the Victorian era."
--Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire