Issues of Assimilation, Language and Identity in the Lives of Young Max Nordau and Tivadar Herzl

Hedvig Ujvári


The name of Theodor Herzl (Herzl Tivadar) evokes his Hungarian ties and the major stages of his life and work with relative ease, but doctor, writer and journalist Max Nordau (1849, Pest – 1923, Paris), requires a more delicate approach, having essentially sunk into oblivion despite his prolificacy in literature and his wide-ranging Zionist activities. In the case of Max Nordau, the second personality discussed in this paper, the aim of this paper is not to remedy the lack of information on Nordau, but to draw a comparison and a parallel between the years Nordau and Herzl spent in Pest in terms of assimilation and issues of language and identity. We first highlight events that are relevant to Nordau and Herzl‟s family background, schooling, school transfers and university education, and then discuss in greater detail the linguistic and cultural paradigm shift that began in 1861 and forced Nordau first into a defensive position and then into isolation both socio-culturally and occupationally, but led to well-balanced bilingualism in Herzl‟s case.


Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; Max Nordau; Theodor Herzl; bilingualism; Judaism

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