Theodor Herzl was the founder of modern Zionism. His early life, however, gave little inkling of this. Until 1895 he was no more than a 'boulevardier', a moderately successful playwright, and the Paris correspondent for Vienna's leading newspaper, "Die Neue Freie Presse". In short, he was an assimilated nineteenth-century Jew. The Dreyfus Affair was to change that. In a feverish, semi-mystical state he wrote a pamphlet "The Jewish State: an Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question" that was to affect the lives of literally millions of people. The claim has been made, with no exaggeration, that it was as important to Zionism as The Communist Manifesto was to socialism: it set in motion the plans that led to the modern state of Israel. From then on Herzl devoted all his energies to his vision of creating an independent, sovereign Jewish state. He travelled back and forth across Europe and the Middle East, negotiating with European rulers, statesmen, financiers, Jewish leaders, and even the Sultan of Turkey.
The man who could note with such conviction in his diary that he had founded the 'Jewish State' after organizing and leading the first Zionist congress in 1897 would hardly have been surprised when, fifty years later on 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. Amos Elon's magnificent biography is being reissued to mark the 150th anniversary of Theodor Herzl's birth in 1860. 'A fascinating book ...it has the fascination of a novel on the grand scale' - Arthur Miller, "Washington Post". 'A skilfully written human look at the man whose life reads like a novel' - "Miami Herald". 'A full superb, dramatic biography, rich in big scenes' - Alfred Kazin, "New York Times".