11-03-2008 08:09 AM
I thought I'd start things off with a big question: How did you come to write this book?
We all look forward to hearing more,.
11-04-2008 03:43 PM
Thanks for having me here, Rahel--I'm looking forward to discussing Disraeli with you and everyone on the board.
I found my way to Disraeli first through his novels. I'm a poet and literary critic, not a historian, and I had some reservations at first about writing a book about such a central figure in British political history. After all, there have been hundreds of books about Benjamin Disraeli, including several excellent biographies. But reading Disraeli's novels--especially some of the ones that are little read or remembered today, like Contarini Fleming, Alroy, and Tancred--made me realize that his story really is a Jewish one, and belongs in the Jewish Encounters series.
In these books, as well as in some of his important speeches, you can see that being Jewish was both the greatest obstacle Disraeli faced, and the greatest engine of his ambition. It was the permanent marker of his difference from the majority of English people, and he was determined that they would see it as a positive difference, not a negative or contemptible one. He spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy inventing myths of Jewishness, in a way that makes him a central figure in the history of modern, emancipated Jewry. I came to realize that, if he hadn't been a writer, with a writer's imagination, Disraeli could never have been so successful as a statesman.
11-06-2008 12:46 PM
Thanks so much for being here with us.
Since your approach to Disraeli is influenced by his novels, is there one or two that you would recommend to interested readers?
I also was so interested by what you said below, about the importance of Disraeli's imagination in creating for himself a narrative that would allow him to be elected. I remember seeing an article recently -- alas I don't remember where, maybe the New Yorker? -- that compared various contemporary American candidates' biographies and, more significantly, autobiographies and looked at them with a lens towards their success.
I came to realize that, if he hadn't been a writer, with a writer's imagination, Disraeli could never have been so successful as a statesman.
How did Disraeli have the vision to create these narratives of Jewishness that would allow him to overcome the kinds of anti-Semitic stereotypes that Choisya talked about in her post?
11-12-2008 05:45 PM
I have a different name but I am the same mildoneRD with the RD added. I failed to follow the easy directions and hence have a new name. It was 58 years ago that I first studied Benjamin Disraeli but I find Adam Kirsch's book much more interesting and informative. Disraeli comes alive in Kirsch's writing; where in my undergraduate course he was a rather flat character and a bore. Enjoying the book and the life of Disraeli.