The forefather for the modern Zionist movement, his short career was less than nine years as he died in 1904. Avineri’s book seeks to analyse Herzl’s works in the form of diaries and looks at the successive diplomatic innuendos that followed. The author shows that Herzl slowly realised that anti-Semitism was not a remnant of feudal belief but “a product of the Enlightenment itself”, and made newly proper by the biological and anthropological sciences. Scholarly anti-Semites like Eugen Dühring took old myths and rationalized them. Jews were not now said to be stealing Christian children; rather, they were taking Christian capital (giving an idea of what mattered most in the 19th century).
This is a reasonable well researched piece of academic work that is still very readable to the layperson. However, while Avineri’s looks at certain aspects i.e. the political and diplomatic nature of Herzl - there is little said about his wife and family and Herzl’s other predilections that would have given a more rounded and balanced view of this enigmatic character.
This book which was basically an analysis of Herzl's diaries and mindset was to me an answer to many questions. People who are friends or foes of the modern state of Israel should read it to get an understanding of the imperative that this man saw before others of how nationhood has to be built before it can be attained.