Synopses & Reviews
Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880and#150;1940) was a man of huge paradoxes and contradictions and has been the most misunderstood of all Zionist politicians--a first-rate novelist, a celebrated Russian journalist, and the founder of the branch of Zionism now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. This biography, the first in English in nearly two decades, undertakes to answer central questions about Jabotinsky as a writer, a political thinker, and a leader. Hillel Halkin sets aside the stereotypes to which Jabotinsky has been reduced by his would-be followers and detractors alike.
Halkin explains the importance of Odessa, Jabotinskyand#8217;s native city, in molding his character and outlook; discusses his novels and short stories, showing the sometimes hidden connections between them and Jabotinskyand#8217;s political thought, and studies a political career that ended in tragic failure. Halkin also addresses Jabotinskyand#8217;s position, unique among the great figures of Zionist history, as both a territorial maximalist and a principled believer in democracy. The author inquires why Jabotinsky was often accused of fascist tendencies though he abhorred authoritarian and totalitarian politics, and investigates the many opposed aspects of his personality and conduct while asking whether or not they had an ultimate coherence. Few figures in twentieth-century Jewish life were quite so admired and loathed, and Halkinand#8217;s splendid, subtle book explores him with empathy and lucidity.
"Increasingly forgotten except by the Zionist right, Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940), the founder of the movement's Revisionist wing, was an ideological father to Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu. While conceding that, unlike Herzl, Weizmann, and Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky 'never had their power to influence events,' writer, critic, and translator Halkin (Melisande! What Are Dreams?) profiles a man who was as much an intellectual and writer as a political leader. Jabotinsky knew eight languages and penned a fictional work, The Five, which Halkin calls 'one of the finest twentieth century Russian novels.' Yet he also spearheaded the effort to found the first modern Jewish army, the Jewish Brigade, during WWI; was prescient about the Palestinians' fierce attachment to the land; and clashed bitterly with Ben-Gurion. Halkin's biographical pacing is sometimes off; he devotes too much space to Jabotinsky's early years in Rome and too little to the tumultuous pre-Holocaust years. And in an otherwise imaginative and thoughtful epilogue in which Halkin imagines speaking to Jabotinsky today in the Paris cafÃ© the Revisionist leader used to haunt, Halkin romanticizes him as 'the least ideological of all Zionists.' These flaws aside, Halkin's work should return Jabotinsky to the minds of those seriously interested in modern Zionist and Israeli history. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An insightful new biography of the most controversial and perhaps most fervent of all Zionist political figures
About the Author
Hillel Halkin is a writer, critic, and translator. He is the author of Across the Sabbath River and Yehuda Halevi, both of which won the National Jewish Book Award. His most recent book is Melisande! What Are Dreams? He lives in Israel.