Utopia and geopolitics in Theodor Herzl's Altneuland.
grandeur. At the moment I do not know whether I shall carry it
through. It looks like a mighty dream. But for days and weeks it has
possessed me beyond the limits of consciousness; it accompanies me
wherever I go, hovers behind my ordinary talk, looks over my
shoulder at my comically trivial journalistic work, disturbs me and
intoxicates me .... If my conception is not translated into reality, at
least out of my activity can come a novel. Title: The Promised Land!
(Herzl 1960:I, 3)
If we wish to found a State today, we shall not do it in the way
which would have been the only possible one a thousand years ago. It
is foolish to revert to old stages of civilization, as many Zionists
would like to do. Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a
country of wild beasts, we should not set about the task in the
fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We should not take spear
and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organize a
large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a
melinite bomb into their midst (Herzl 1988: 93-4).(1)
Theodor Herzl is known to us foremost as the author of the political manifesto, der Judenstaat [The Jewish State] (1896), and as the key founding member of the World Zionist Congress. But his contemporaries knew him best as the prolific, worldly journalist and editorialist of Vienna's Neue Freie Presse, and Herzl's own diaries and letters make repeated reference to another, largely uncharted career as a playwright and a novelist. From the outset, then, the "Father of Zionism" was never simply a political ideologue, and his writings did not constitute a mere repository of ideas to be taken up and embellished elsewhere. On the contrary, the historical record shows that Herzl was greatly preoccupied with the question of which medium would most effectively communicate his "urgent message," and he toyed not insouciantly on frequent occasions with the notion of conveying his "political ideas" in fictional form.
But once swept up in the whirlwind of transnational and transimperial negotiations, Herzl's literary ambitions were forced to the margins of his concerns: relegated to those awkward stretches of time waiting in hotel rooms and outside the offices of foreign dignitaries. Novel-writing, for Herzl, became a performance carried out in the corridors of power, not in its inner chambers. This is reflected in his occasionally explicit dismissals of the political efficacity of the novel at opposed to the manifesto. Indeed, had he set out at the beginning to write a novel, Herzl muses at one point,
people would have spoken about it in drawing rooms and railroad
compartments, many would perhaps have laughed at the moody concept,
others would perhaps secretly have wept into the pages. But what would
have been achieved? One more fairy tale added to the Arabian Nights
of literature. No, no, what I wanted was reality and the act. The Jewish
people had to be shaken out of their torpor, not lulled into deeper sleep.
And indeed, it was shaken out of its torpor, it stretched its limbs, it
began to move, it started that movement which we call Zionism in
accordance with its aim. (quoted in Bein 395)
Nonetheless, despite such protests against literature, Herzl devoted the better part of the last decade of his life to a literary project that was to result in his most sustained work. The utopian novel, Altneuland [Old-New Land](2) appeared in 1902, at what some would describe as the summit of Herzl's career: six years after der Judenstaat, and after the convening of five international Zionist congresses and countless meetings with heads of state and other officials both in Europe and in the Ottoman Empire. What can be said about Altneuland, and what can Altneuland tell us about Herzl's Zionist project as a whole? It is my contention that this novel provides an occasion to re-evaluate Herzlian Zionism as it is inscribed in the dominant historiographic discourses. For despite the fact that Altneuland was arguably the last significant piece of writing Herzl produced, it has received remarkably little attention in the literature. And this is particularly surprising, given that it is one of the earliest and most detailed representations of a possible Jewish society in a land belonging to Jews.
Debates about the historical significance of Herzl and the early Zionist movement rarely fail to gravitate to one of two conclusions. For some, Zionism was a dream translated into reality, a paradise descended to earth, and a utopia (ou-topia: a "non-place") given a place in the world (see Gorni, Hertzberg). For others, it was an apparatus for legitimating the formation of a settler-colonial state, a hegemonic strategy for grounding Jewish identity in a specific territory, and a refusal to recognize other ways of "being Jewish," let alone the claims of others to the same territory which Zionism marks (see Boyarin, Said). At the risk of adding to such attempted definitions, I will take the position in this paper that Zionism is both and neither of these. It is not simply reduced either to "utopia" or to "ideology," to make use of Karl Mannheim's famous distinction, but rather constitutes a discursive field encompassing the disjunctures between these two terms. That is to say, I understand Zionism as comprising an extensive arena in which different parties have initiated, debated, contested, outright rejected, or collaborated to produce the "meaning" of its basic terms of reference.
I am saying, in other words, that the discourse of early Zionism was composed from what Mikhail Bakhtin calls "thousands of living dialogic threads, woven by socio-ideological consciousness around the given object of an utterance," (1981:277) and was organized into "relatively stable types of these utterances ... called speech genres" (1986:60, Cf 87-8). A rough taxonomy of these genres would include (as we shall see) literary, legal, medical, entrepreneurial, technocratic, religious, and political categories of utterances, all of which were deployed and organized according to specific mechanisms for bringing these different languages into contact with one another--in other words, a system regulating the hybridity of this discursive field. And this hybridity is itself the product of the tectonic pressures of two competing spatial dimensions: the province of the imagination and the province of political action; literary landscapes and "concrete" territories acquired and consolidated outside the text; or, utopia and geopolitics.
The social discourse of early Zionism thus attempted (and in some measure managed) to achieve two things. On a narrative plane, it organized the elements of Jewish life into a coherent pattern, positioning Jews themselves in terms of their autochthonous origins, their "dislocated" present states, and their "redeemable" futures. But on a geopolitical plane it attempted to provide the conditions of possibility for relocating Jews from Europe to Palestine, offering both a blueprint for a "national space" (in terms of physical habitat and abstract notions of boundaries and autarchy) and also the pragmatic means to overcome whatever obstacles--both envisaged and unexpected--co-existed in this dimension: interested parties, financial and geographical barriers, conditions of war, and so on. I take the position that both of these spatial underpinnings of the Zionist discourse--framed as they are in historically specific circumstances--must be borne in mind when approaching any of the key texts of early Zionist writers. The following analysis of Altneuland aims to elaborate precisely this interpretive concern.
Taken on its own, Altneuland falls rather unproblematically in that genre of nineteenth century utopian literature which regulated the production of such popular novels as Etienne Cabet's Voyage en Icarie (1840), Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), Theodor Hertzka's Freiland (1890), or William Morris's News From Nowhere (1891). But Altneuland was neither the only nor the first attempt to extend this genre to the description of a "Jewish utopia." Herzl's literary efforts should in fact be situated among an array of attempts by European Jews to portray an ideal Jewish society in the not-too-distant future. These included: Edmund Menachem Eisler's Ein Zukunftsbild [An Image of the Future] (1882); Elhanan Leib Lewinsky's Massa le- Eretz Yisrael bi-Shnat Tat la-Elef ha-Hamishi [A Journey to the Land of Israel in the year 5800; ie, 2040 CE] (1892); Max Osterberg-Verakoff's Das Reich Judaa im Jahre 6000, 2241 Christlicher Zeitrechnung [The Kingdom of Judah in the year 6000; ie, 2241 CE] (1893); Henry Pereira Mendes's Looking Ahead (1899); and others (see Eliav-Feldon 87-91). Of course, I am referring here to relatively obscure texts, and with the exception of Eisler's and Osterberg-Verakoff's utopias, it is doubtful that Herzl was much aware of any of them. Nonetheless, Herzl's novel must be read in the light of this literary tradition of utopianism and social reformism which dominated the imaginary landscapes of late nineteenth century European bourgeois society.
Altneuland recounts the "adventures" of an alienated, young Viennese lawyer, Dr. Friedrich Lowenberg and his American millionaire travelling companion, Mr. Kingscourt, and details their two visits to Palestine: once in 1902 and again in 1923. Not unlike Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, the protagonists--having sequestered themselves on a far-flung island for some twenty years--embark on their second trip only to discover that during their absence a modern Jewish state had been constructed. "How changed it all is! There's been a miracle here," Lowenberg exclaims at the sight of the now-modernized port of Jaffa (ANL 58). Palestine, which during the first visit was nothing but "a forsaken country" or "a wasteland" [ein wustes Land] (ANL 57), has since flourished into a technological wonderland.
The better part of the novel consists of Lowenberg and his friend's guided tours through Old-New Land, the marvellous society that Jews have built for themselves. In Old-New Land, cities were built (or rebuilt) according to rational plans. "We knew just what utilities a modern city required, and therefore laid tunnels under our streets to accommodate them," David Littwak--Lowenberg's "tour guide"--explains (ANL 94). The foreboding, harsh nature of Palestine has been tamed, and its secret powers have been harnessed thanks to the latest technological expertise. The revolutionary, modernizing potential of electricity, for instance, was realized by drawing power "from the brooks of the Hermaon and the Lebanon, or from the [previously non-existent] Dead Sea Canal" (ANL 119-120; Cf 238). While "in the ages when the land had lain neglected, the rain had been allowed to run off into the ground . . . [n]ow, by the simple system of dams known so well throughout the civilized world, every drop of water that fell from the heavens was exploited for the public good. Milk and honey once more flowed in the ancient home of the Jews. Palestine was again the Promised Land" (ANL 241).
During Lowenberg and Kingscourt's relatively brief absence, the Jews had in fact introduced and implemented new technology throughout Old-New Land. Resources, such as oil, sulphur and phosphate, were found in abundance and exploited according to the most modern methods (see ANL 168). Modem agricultural methods had transformed the desert into "a garden" with fantastic produce: "And now our cheese competes with the best brands of France and Switzerland. In the Jordan Valley we grow tobacco that is not inferior to Havana" (ANL 169). Even the most successful, modern forms of tourism were introduced to the New Society: "Experienced Swiss hotel-keepers had been the first to recognize the climatic advantages and scenic beauty of [the city of Tiberias], and prospered accordingly" (ANL 159, Cf 222-223).
What the newcomers discover is not only a land of technological marvels, but also a socially progressive society, neither socialist nor capitalist, which now serves as a beacon of light for all humanity. As their everhospitable tour-guide assures them, Old-New Land is "a mutualistic order. But please don't imagine a system of cast-iron rules, rigid principles, or anything stiff or hard or doctrinaire. It is only a simple, flexible modus operandi" (ANL 86). In the society the Jews built "the individual is neither ground between the millstones of capitalism, nor decapitated by socialistic levelling" (ANL 90). Women are fully emancipated, sharing "equal rights with the men" (ANL 74). "There is no army in the New Society .... We have no state, like the Europeans of your time. We are merely a society of citizens seeking to enjoy life through work and culture. We content ourselves with making our young people physically fit" (ANL 79). Criminals are not punished, but re-educated. Education is free. Religion is privatized; the myths propagated by the superstitious Rabbis of old Europe have been banished from public life. In their place, "rationality" and "liberal tolerance" have become the supreme principles of state.
Equally remarkable is the fact that, as our protagonists' hosts eagerly explain, the creation of Old-New Land had sounded the death-knell for European (and all other forms of) anti-Semitism. "Is it true that Jew-hatred has declined?" Lowenberg asks in astonishment. "Declined, you say! It's disappeared!" (ANL 174). After all, the residents of Old-New Land casually explain, since the exodus of Jewish engineers, jurists, administrators, and other "educated young men" to Palestine, "Christian professional men no longer looked askance at their Jewish colleagues, for they were no longer annoying competitors. In such circumstances, commercial envy and hatred had gradually disappeared. Furthermore, the less Jewish abilities were offered in the marketplace, the more their value was appreciated" (ANL 177-8).
In fact, all the technological and social "advances" to which Lowenberg and Kingscourt bear witness now serve as models for progressive humanity throughout the world. In the New Society, the protagonists are introduced to Professor Steinek, a scientist working among other things at "the opening up of Africa": a plan to colonize vast territories on the African continent, both to provide a new home for "the surplus populations of Europe" (i.e., its lumpenproletariat) and to resolve "the Negro problem," based on the Jewish colonial experience in Palestine. "Now that I have lived to see the restoration of the Jews," Steinek explains, "I should like to pave the way for the restoration of the Negroes .... That is why I am working to open up Africa. All human beings ought to have a home. Then they will be kinder to one another. Then they will understand and love one another more. Understand?" (ANL 170).
This mission civilisatrice (in which Jews were to play the leading role in expanding the West) consisted of a continuous process of educational and moral regeneration, progressing toward the greater freedom, not simply of "the Chosen People," but of humankind in toto. In Altneuland, we are presented with the figure of the Jew as the harbinger of a cozy, liberal secularism, as the colonizer for progress, as the defuser of magic and the overturner of moribund traditions, and as the exponent of the sphere of circulation in the modern world capitalist system. What educated Jewish men were able to do "for themselves "--colonizing Palestine and setting up a new social order--became the model for reforming the lives of women, Arabs, superstitious religious elders, and even far-off African "primitives," "elevating" them all to the ranks of a new (unequivocally liberal) human order. The frenzied pace of life in the Judischewirtschaft ["Jewish economy "]--Shy lock's hateful legacy--has finally been dissolved, and Jews have risen to their "proper place" among the "great nations" and "noble races." In sum, the Jewish society Lowenberg and Kingscourt encounter is a radical reversal of Jewish life as they once knew it, a perfect mirror image of conditions in the diaspora, and a total transformation of Palestine from a "desert" to a "garden." On a visit to the Littwak family home, its matriarch announces to Friedrich: "I am content. I am already at the gates of Paradise. Look at this view of mine, Dr. Lowenberg The Garden of Eden, is it not?" "The Garden of Eden, indeed!" he replies (ANL 161).
Something must be said here about the importance of science, and of the connotator "scienticity," for Herzl's utopian vision. This is a topic which has received considerable attention in the literature. Amos Funkenstein, for instance, has commented on the functioning of the discourse of science that circulated between the revision of the Geistesschaft des Judentums which Zionism purportedly provided (attempting to correct the "negative" or "apologetic" character of Jewish historiography that emerges within the context of the diaspora) and the actual career of Zionist leaders themselves as scientists of one sort or another (338-40). Herzl's firm faith in the "apotheosis of science" is abundantly evident throughout Altneuland. But it is in der Judenstaat that we find one of the clearest expressions of science in the service of utopia:
The word "impossible" has ceased to exist in the vocabulary of technical
science. Were a man who lived in the last century to return to earth, he
would find the life of today full of incomprehensible magic. Wherever
the moderns appear with our inventions, we transform the desert into
a garden. To build a city takes in our time as many years as it formerly
required centuries; America offers endless examples of this. Distance has
ceased to be an obstacle. The spirit of our age has gathered fabulous
treasures into its storehouse. Every day this wealth increases. A hundred
thousand heads are occupied with speculations and research at every
point of the globe, and what any one discovers belongs the next moment to
the whole world. We ourselves will use and carry on every new attempt in
our Jewish land; and just as we shall introduce the seven-hour day as an
experiment for the good of humanity, so we shall proceed in everything
else in the same humane spirit, making of the new land a land of
experiments and a model State. (JS 151)
It is not science per se that animates Herzl, but rather a science circumscribed by a specific spatiality: a science which reveals the "inappropriacy" of Jews in one space (Europe), augments their claims on another space (Palestine), and calculates the "distance" to travel from the former to the latter. This imbrication of "science" and "territorialization" is in fact a hallmark of much early Zionist writing. Leo Pinsker, the first President of the Russian Hovevi Zion [The Lovers of Zion] movement (a late nineteenth century philanthropic society geared toward forming agrarian settlements in Palestine) was not only an early proponent of Jewish nativism (arguing repeatedly for a "return" to the soil, as he stressed in his opening address to the first Hovevi Zion congress; see Laqueur 77), but also a diagnostician of the "pathogeny" produced by the situation of Jews living in Europe. He grafted onto his political vision an analysis of "the Jewish question" drawn from prevailing medical discourses of the time. In his Autoemanzipation [Auto-Emancipation] (1882), he postulated the aetiology of anti-Semitism, tracing it back to a condition he called "Judeophobia:" a hereditary psychic aberration--a form of demonopathy--stemming from the fear of Jews as a "ghost-like" people. Pinsker writes:
Among the living nations of the earth the Jews occupy the position of a
nation long since dead. With the loss of their fatherland, the Jews lost
their independence and fell into a state of decay which is incompatible
with the existence of a whole and vital organism ... the world saw in
this people the frightening form of one of the dead walking among the
living. This ghostlike apparition of a people without unity or
organization, without land or other bond of union, no longer alive, and
yet moving about among the living--this eerie form scarcely parallelled
in history, unlike anything that preceded or followed it, could not fail
to make a strange impression upon the imagination of the nations. (184)
Early Zionist writings such as Pinsker's are notable for the way they transpose the themes of Blut and Bode ["blood and soil"] inherited from Herder and his contemporaries into the medical and psychological jargon of their day. Indeed, medical diagnosis and prescription together constituted something of a thematique migratoire within and between the fin-de-siecle political discourses from which Zionism was assembled. Max Nordau--Herzl's closest colleague and ally in the Zionist cause--had attempted in his famous work, Degeneration (1892), to diagnose the "degeneracy" of fin-de-siecle Europe in contradistinction, we can presume, with the rejuvenative offerings of an autochthonous Jewish identity situated in "a land of its own." If Europe in general was suffering from enervation, exhaustion, and hysteria, Jews in Europe were also--if not especially--ill (see Nordau 1993:15). The needed antidote, Nordau suggested in his Korperliche Renaissance der Juden [The Physical Renaissance of the Jews] (1909), was that "Jews must become men of muscle instead of remaining slaves to their nerves. Strengthening of muscle must go hand in hand with the building of character--that is, manliness, dignity, and self-respect" (12, quoted in Mosse xxvii).
But such a physical rejuvenation could only occur in such a "healthy environment" as the future Jewish State would be able to offer. Therefore, what nature could not provide for the Jews, social action schooled in medical science would have to provide prosthetically; if a "healthy environment," a "homeland," or a "nation" did not already exist, then one could--and must--be built. Amos Funkenstein writes:
Nordau, the most famous among the normalisers, saw as a primary task of
Zionism the creation of a "muscular Judaism"--Muskeljudentum .... Faith in
the sciences shaped these ideals. Without science and technology--such was
the almost general consensus among Zionists--there can be no
normalization. Because there is not time enough to wait for the slow,
organic-historical growth of a healthy, agricultural society in the land of
Israel, only scientific planning can secure, in the land of Israel, a
massive "colonization." (342)
This "colonization" is precisely what Herzl understood science to serve. Indeed, thanks to science, the migration of the Jews from Europe to their new homeland will be unlike any other migration. "When nations wandered in historic times," Herzl remarks in der Judenstaat, "they let chance carry them, fling them hither and thither, and like swarms of locusts they settled down indifferently anywhere .... But this modern Jewish migration must proceed in accordance with scientific principles" (JS 141). This means "investigat[ing] and tak[ing] possession of the new Jewish land by means of every modem expedient," conducting "an accurate, scientific investigation of all natural resources in the country," organizing "a strictly centralized administration," and distributing the land among the new inhabitants (JS 142). Now, while it is obvious that Altneuland cannot be considered as a "scientific tract," it nevertheless aimed to present itself as something of a manual for precisely such a consolidation of Palestine, now placed under the purview of modem engineering and technocracy (Cf Penslar).
Within the symbolic universe of Herzlian Zionism, medical and engineering discourses are pressed into the service of imaginatively enabling--and therefore ideologically legitimating--the migration of settler-colonial Jews to Palestine. But prior to this there is a more elemental discursive operation to consider: the production of Palestine itself as the site for this technocratically orchestrated effort to "autochthonize" Jewish identity. In narratological terms,(3) we could say that the literary "chronotope" of Palestine is produced in Altneuland on the basis of two distinct operations:
1) A Cartographic Operation: an imaginative "mapping" of the land in which a hypothetical colonization has taken place (and, pedagogically speaking, on the basis of which a real colonization will take place). The descriptive passages of Palestine in Altneuland would have been particularly significant for a European readership insofar as they assisted to fix specific images of the landscape, providing what Michael Berkowitz calls "a common visual stock for the assimilated Jews of Europe." "Before the Zionist movement," Berkowitz elaborates,
it is likely that the recognizable scenes of Palestine, to most Jews, would
have been the Wailing Wall, Rachel's Tomb, and the Tower of David. They
were familiar with such places largely through the promotions of Yeshivot
and charitable societies. Probably their sense of the Palestinian
environment was vague, and virtually inseparable from mental pictures
of the rest of the dusty Orient. ... By 1914, the Zionist Movement
was able to effect a change in Jewish consciousness. Many Jews now
perceived Palestine as a Jewish country, or an incipient Jewish
sovereignty, because it appeared to them a microcosm of the
long-term goal of the mainstream of the movement--a Jewish State.
The seedlings of a Jewish national life apparently had taken root,
were flourishing, and the ground was prepared for the inevitable
establishment of a permanent, bountiful, and cultural society. (144-5)
The pedagogical function of "mapping" was to render Palestine visible to European Jewry as the site for possible colonization. This is, at least for the purposes of analysis, the initial operation that constitutes the literary chronotope of "Palestine" in Altneuland, and in other similar works of the period. But from the point of view of the consumer of such representations, Palestine is only understood in connection with a second constitutive moment:
2) A Detergent Operation geared toward excising the presence of a "native" population (and way of life) resistant or even hostile to the emergence of a Jewish State in Palestine. This detergency is not unique to Herzl's writing; it is present in much early Zionist propaganda material, of which Altneuland would constitute a sustained example. Such efforts were in fact relatively commonplace on the part of early Zionists; the attitudes about "natives" underlying them are betrayed, for example, by Israel Zangwill's remarkable dictum that the Zionist movement was "a people without a land returning to a land without a people" (quoted in Kimmerling 9). This is also largely in keeping with what Michael Berkowitz describes as a characteristic strategy of much early Zionist photography, travelogues, and propaganda pamphlets: to relegate the Arab population to the margins of what was to become a "Jewish native landscape;" and to construct an image of Palestine which "showed Jews to be operating in a cultural void, that is, in a space with a unique character, discernable to European eyes" (147). In Zionist propaganda, he explains,
as often as possible, Arab towns and dwellings were shown unpopulated, or
with very few inhabitants. Pictures of bustling Arab life in Jaffa or Haifa
were virtually nonexistent in Zionist photographs. Furthermore, one is hard
pressed to find a picture in which an Arab's face could be distinguished.
Stories of markets and ports, with dazzling colours and rich aromas, were
reserved for stopover points before Palestine, such as Cairo and Beirut.
These were portrayed as wild, colourful and chaotic, as opposed to the
quiet and majestic severity of Palestine. (150)
Where Arab life is not already absent it is represented as an object in need of repair, civilizing or, barring these, outright eradication. Indeed, in the first visit to Palestine described in Altneuland, a metonymic relation between "Arab" (Palestinian) and "dirt and decrepitude" (Palestine) is clearly established in the eyes of the protagonists: "Jaffa made a very unpleasant impression on them ... the town was in a state of extreme decay .... The alleys were filled with the foulest of odours, dirty, neglected, misery in bright Oriental rags everywhere. Poor Turks, dirty Arabs, timid Jews lounged about, indolent, beggarly, and hopeless. A remarkable odour of mould, like from a grave, caught one's breath" (ANL 42).(4)
This stands in sharp contrast with Palestine of 1923 as it was transformed by the hands of the Jews. Reschid Bey, the sole Arab protagonist of the novel, proclaims:
Nothing could have been more wretched than an Arab village at the end of
the nineteenth century. The peasants' clay hovels were unfit even for
stables. The children lay naked and neglected in the streets, and grew
up like dumb beasts. Now everything is different. They benefited from
progressive measures of the New Society whether they wanted to or not.
When the swamps were drained, the canals built, and the eucalyptus trees
planted to drain and "cure" [gesund machen] the marshy soil, the natives
... were the first to be employed .... These people are better off
now than at any time in the past. (ANIL 123-4)
But there is another, more radical sense in which this detergent function operates: the cleansing, not simply of an undesirable Arab "way of life," but of all the morass and mire of life itself as European Jews knew it: no more shtetls, no more ghettoes, no more decadent European dens. The chronotope of "Palestine 1923" is thus the opposite, not only of "Palestine 1902" but also of the chronotope of "Europe." Where the latter two appear filthy, unhealthy, and undesirable, the former appears clean and invigorating.
The detergent operation thus helps to establish the foundation upon which the "utopian" representations of life in Palestine are erected. Altneuland therefore initiates an "end of history" through a "utopic play of spaces," to use Louis Marin's term (see 1984:8-9, 69-70, 195-200), that have been superimposed on a specific geopolitical entity (Palestine) within a particular historical framework: the age of the great European colonial empires.
Altneuland produces a narrative space that is at once scientific and utopian. But this imbrication of the "scienticity of utopia" and the "utopianism of science" tends to be obscured by Zionist historiography's conformity with Herzl's own insistence that his project was not utopian, but grounded in Realpolitik. At the outset of der Judenstaat, for instance, Herzl writes:
I must, in the first place, guard my scheme from being treated as Utopian
by superficial critics who might commit this error of judgment if I
did not warn them. I should obviously have done nothing to be ashamed
of if I had described a Utopia on philanthropic lines; and I should
also, in all probability, have obtained literary success more easily
if I had set forth my plan in the irresponsible guise of a romantic
tale. But this Utopia is far less attractive than any one of those
portrayed by Sir Thomas More and his numerous forerunners and
successors. (JS 69)
However ingenious the invention of the "dream States" in the tradition of More's Utopia, Herzl cautions, "there is nothing to prove that they can be set in motion" (JS 70).(5) Utopias, it seems, are not the same as plans. While both are concerned with the future, they operate according to quite different principles; utopias are "entertaining but not stirring," whereas plans "call for the utilization of a driving force that actually exists" Herzl 1960:I, 235). Utopian dreams are thus counterpoised with what Herzl sees as his own, "carefully constructed machinery," harnessing "a propelling force" and employing the "laws of power." Everything is a matter of engineering, of proper balance, of fine tuning according to specific and empirically verifiable laws. The utopian is merely a sloppy engineer, or a careless minister of finance (see Herzl 1960:I, 235-7). The founders of the Jewish State, on the other hand, will be neither since their effort "presupposes the application of scientific methods" (JS 140). "Great things need no firm foundation," Herzl notes elsewhere in his diary. "An apple must be placed on a table to keep it from falling. The earth hovers in the air. Thus I can perhaps found and secure a Jewish state without a firm anchorage. The secret lies in movement. Hence I believe that somewhere a guidable aircraft will be discovered" (quoted in Laqueur 102).
Nonetheless, the line dividing "dreams" and "fables" from Realpolitik is not always unequivocal in Herzl's writing. While he denigrates the utopian projects of his colleagues and contemporaries, he retreats from dismissing the power of dreams altogether. In the postscript to Altneuland, Herzl hints that "dreaming" implies a certain alloplasticity inherent in all practical engagements with the world:
I had meant to compose an instructive poem. "More poetry than
instruction," some will say--"more instruction than poetry," others. Now,
after three years of labour we must part, my dear book, and your pain will
begin. You will have to make your way through enmity and misrepresentation
as through a dark forest. If, however, you come across friendly
people, give them greetings from your father. He believes: dreams are
also a fulfillment of the time we spend on earth. Dreams are not so
different from deeds as some believe. All the deeds of mankind were once
dreams, and later become dreams again. (ANL 296)
To what extent, then, can the Zionist project be understood as "dream-like," or at least as embracing the modality of the dream as a constitutive element? No answer to this question can avoid the thorny issue of how Herzl's "blueprint" for the Jewish State relates to the various eschatological dramas of the "ingathering of exiles" and of the "Final Redemption" that are found in the long history of Jewish folklore and theological writings. This is a point to which I will return. For the moment, however, suffice it to say that it might be for the best if we were to abandon attempts to demarcate Herzl's "wild imaginings" or "undisciplined dreams" from his "meticulous social engineering" or "scientific rationalism," since Altneuland quite evidently borrowed freely from both of these apparently contradictory extremes.
It might be useful at this point to recall Miriam Eliav-Feldon's distinction between "utopias"--which imply human efforts in this world--and other historical forms of "dreaming" that were dominated by theology, and found satisfaction through other channels: Paradise, the City of God, the Millennium, and so on (85). What makes utopia unique--whether conceived here as a literary genre or as the apparatus of a social movement--is that it is concerned with the construction of "the good place" (eutopia) on human terms, as fashioned by human hands, and not on the basis of providence, or some other form of divine dispensation. But if the problem of utopia has always been that of human practical activity in the world, on what basis does Herzl distinguish himself from others in the utopian tradition? According to Eliav-Feldon, the answer is procured in part by recognizing that, insofar as the Zionist utopia was not located in a fictional "nowhere," but in a concrete territory (Ottoman, and then later Mandatory Palestine), "the Zionist utopists [such as Herzl] had to solve in their imagination some problems quite different from those faced by other utopists" (92).
The "situatedness" of the Jewish utopia in the world--and not somewhere "outside" it--demanded response on both the imaginative and the practical planes. What must be thrown into sharp relief, therefore, are the spatial dimensions of this discourse: that, like all utopian discourses, it is implicated in a specific spatial practice, and that, like all utopias, it has a spatial dimension.(6) This much is suggested by Louis Marin when, in an intriguing attempt to define utopia, he writes that the term signifies,
on the one hand, a free play of imagination in its indefinite expansion
measured only by the desire, itself infinite, of happiness in a space where
the moving frontiers of its philosophical and political fictions would be
traced; on the other hand, the exactly closed totality rigorously coded by
all the constraints and obligations of the law binding and closing a place
with insuperable frontiers that would guarantee its harmonious functioning.
Marin reminds us of the Greek etymology of the term utopia, "obviously inscribed in a geographic, or rather `thalasso-graphic' reference" (1984:xv). Thomas More's Utopia, for instance, speaks of an island in the distant South Seas, somewhere between Europe and the "New World." But the "situatedness" of utopia in the world, I have been arguing, implies that there are not one, but two spatial dimensions to which our attention must be drawn: the space of narrative, imagination, and fantasy, and the space of political action. In the case of Palestine, we could say in narratological terms that the intrusion of proponents of one narrative game into the imagined space of another narrative game (the "rules" for which are definitionally incommensurable with the former), has produced a metalepsis. In concrete political terms, this same disruption has led to a geopolitical struggle between two parties (reductively referred to in the literature as "the Jews" and "the Arabs") in which territorial occupation and consolidation through financial, legal, and military instruments becomes the order of the day. But this contradiction between two antagonistic discursive regimes does not detract from the "utopian" elements at play. Herzl's Altneuland still harbours, despite its anti-utopian protests, the narrative desire for a universe in which, as Fourier had once speculated cosmogonically, five moons illuminating the sky would transform the globe, causing the ice to recede from the poles, and ultimately will bring about a new social harmony (494-6). But we must now understand that the labour of which Fourier speaks would have to be carried out in more than one spatial dimension. And, once forced to don a garb for the mundane, everyday world, its agents would find themselves in contact, not simply with objects awaiting this magnificent transformation, but with other people in quite other uniforms, going about their business to quite different ends.
By adopting specific narrative strategies, early Zionists like Herzl were able to transform "Palestine" into the site for (at least) two simultaneous discursive transformations: a mythological grounding of Jewish identity; and a technocratic plan to transplant a dispersed European population, the engineering of a form of settler-colonialism. These are the contents that make up the "utopian space" of Zionist discourse. But this narrative figuration of Palestine is established only with reference to another spatial practice: a transformation from Palestine qua "object of literary representation" to Palestine qua "object of acquisition and consolidation." This latter object is imbricated in a geopolitical space. In other words, Palestine was for Zionists not simply an object of imaginary occupation, fantasy, and hypothetical organization into various forms (as the scene for narrated developments of return, prosperity, redemption, etc). It was also an object upon which labour of various sorts--intellectual and physical--was to be performed: an object which presented resistances to its subject (untillable soil, swamps, "greedy" effendis, "resentful" fellaheen, "corrupt" Ottoman officials, "unsympathetic" British administrators), and which was located in a historically specific context (first the Ottoman and later the British empires).
Had it met with a warmer reception by the World Zionist Congress, Altneuland could very well have served as a bridge between these two spaces, as it gave expression to a body of ideas with respect to the eventual colonization of Palestine that survived Herzl's direct influence on the Zionist movement. For this reason, Herzl's novel compares not unfavourably with a long line of plans for settlement in Palestine which succeeded it. The images this novel produced of Palestine as a land "reclaimed" and "transformed" by the Jews in fact remained relatively fixed for early Zionism as a whole. It was widely assumed by Zionists of all stripes, for instance, that even though Palestine was formally under Ottoman control this was a legal complication that would eventually be bypassed, or a financial obstacle that negotiation would resolve. Furthermore, despite the failure of early settlement experiments--such as those financed by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (see Laqueur 789)--Palestine was considered by Herzl's contemporary informants and numerous successors to be a potentially wealthy land, and its desolation was assumed to emanate from the fact that it was not in the hands of industrious Jews. These were not the aspects of Altneuland that so sharply divided the Zionist movement. On the contrary, Palestine remained throughout the various dialogically agitated re-workings of Herzl's initial projection a consistent object of surveying, acquisition, consolidation, and transformation into a "home" for Jews. In other words, in the agonistic/discursive arena of Zionism, Palestine remained for all parties--regardless of other differences--a legitimate object of colonization.
Just as the chronotope of Palestine set the stage for action in Altneuland, land constituted the primary object of the Zionist movement. It was the stage upon which the theatre of spiritual and physical rejuvenation of the Jews was to be performed, and the frame within which political "normalization" was to be set. But of course, the land of Palestine was never simply an empty spatial container awaiting its contents (viz, emigrating Jews). Edward Said reminds us that while the Zionist and other Europeans "considered the desirable and later the probable fate of Palestine, the land was being tilled, villages and towns built and lived in by thousands of natives who, for want of knowing better, believed that it was their homeland. In the meantime their actual physical being was ignored; later it became a troublesome detail" (21). Said asks us, when thinking about Jewish colonization in Palestine, to bear in mind the larger context in which it was carried out. "Zionism was a movement for acquiring land in the Orient," he writes, "during a period when in only one century (1815-1918) Europe's overseas territorial acquisitions increased from 35% to 85% of the earth's surface" (12). For Said, such territorial acquisitions cannot be dissociated from a specifically Eurocentric ideological constellation: "imperialism was the theory, colonialism the practice" which together converted such "wasted resources" as the land of Palestine into an ordered base for productive insertion into the global capitalist market (28). Thus he suggests that Zionism--and the specific complex of ideas and practices it spawned vis-a-vis the land of Palestine--was exemplary of the Orientalist discourses being generated at that time in the imperial metropoles of Europe: "the doxologies about land which non-civilized people [viz, Arabs] supposedly lacked" (26).
Any acquaintance with the history of Jewish settler-colonialism in Palestine, not only during the period of the British Mandate but also as a continuous process to the present, allows for relatively unproblematic corroboration of Said's thesis on a general level. But this is not to ascribe a homogeneous and universally held "anti-Arab" position to Zionists, let alone uncritically to endorse as woolly and ambiguous a notion as that of cultural imperialism. For Zionists were of many stripes; some harboured naive sentiments of Jewish solidarity with Arab fellaheen [peasant tenant-farmers], others baldly promoted scenarios that today would be referred to as "ethnic cleansing" (see Kimmerling 184-8, Laqueur 231ff, 279-308, 348f). From an Arab perspective, on the other hand, the difference between "progressive" and "reactionary" Zionists must have been negligible, since the fundamental issue remained that of the continued immigration of Jews into the region and the displacement of Arab life this inevitably spawned. Yet this displacement was not always a matter of conscious, ideologically motivated reflection. On the contrary, with each successive wave of immigration to Palestine the offense that a Jewish presence might present to the indigenous Arab population became increasingly invisible to Jews themselves. In the myth of Oedipus, the oracle of Apollo advises the people of Thebes that the pestilence afflicting them was being caused by a pollution on their state, for the murderer of King Laius was in their midst. In Palestine, it seems, there was no such oracle to consult.
We could say that the land of Palestine constituted a site of a differend--a case of conflict between two parties that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments" (Lyotard xi)--between Arabs and Jews: the narrative of "Jew as victim" in opposition to the narrative of "Arab as native." The tragedy of the Zionist experience is that what appeared to be the only solution to an intolerable situation--the excision of the Jews from Europe in the epoch of the nation-state--became the instrument for the repression of another people elsewhere. The Jewish "response" to the rise of national identity claims in Europe (and, on its heels, the rise of territorial claims that reinforced the position of the Jews as permanent outsiders) was to nationalize its own identity as a "bargaining chip," one could say, in its own claims for recognition and legitimacy. However much it appeared to "make sense" in a European context, this narrative strategy--the base of the claim that "we, too, are a nation"--ultimately transformed the Jew from "oppressed" in Europe into the "oppressor" in Palestine.
How, then, are we to conceive of this enactment of the utopian impulse, the performance of its script, the concrete manifestation of its content? What, precisely, were the means of transposing the subjunctive mood of a "utopia" (a non-space) into an active mood? Herzl's attempts to achieve this transition rest on his having woven specific narratives of nation-building (the construction of a national mythos), messianism (now transposed to a "religiously neutral" utopian mode), and of technocratic planning into the inchoate fabric of late nineteenth century European Jewish identity. We should note in this regard that Herzl's initial blueprints for a Jewish political nationalism highlighted the potential rewards to be gained from exploiting a storehouse of (vestigial and invented) myths and symbols expressive of Jews' ties to a "sacred homeland" and to "messianic expectancy." But it was Herzl's artful manipulation of the contents of this "storehouse" that marks his departure from "traditional" practices of Jewish identity-formation. His effort was in fact modelled, not on intrinsically Jewish conceptions of community, but on those of Bismarkian German nationalism. Jacques Kornberg reports that
Herzl's early schemes for mobilizing nationalist fervour included the cult
of festivals--a feature of German nationalism--which linked the modern
striving for national unity to historic memories of an ancient tribalistic
communion. Such festivals were to feature archaic dress, a flag. To parallel
the ancient Germanic tribal brotherhood with its warrior austerity, Herzl
evoked the memory of the Maccabees. For the oak and the sacred flame,
archaic symbols of Germany's tribal past, Herzl substituted the
seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple, the menorah. The menorah's
form, he believed, was based on that of the tree. Herzl also called for
"Jewish National Passion Plays," a copy, we can assume, of the passion
play performed every ten years at Oberammergau, considered to be
genuinely volkisch theatre, rooted in popular nativist traditions. (xiv; Cf
Herzl 1960:I, 236)
Of course, insofar as these nativist myths and narratives were "invented" by elites like Herzl, they were not available to all European Jews (the intended addressees) in equal measure. Herzl and his compatriots were, after all, attempting to posit a nation prior to its existence both geopolitically and imaginatively, and to produce sentiments of nationalism that were largely absent. As Michael Berkowitz writes, "when the Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow observed in 1903 that `we don't even have a people yet', he underscored . . . the early Zionist's first major task . . . the creation of the Jewish people as a national-cultural entity" (5-6). It is therefore in the context of this social division between an elite cadre that claimed to provide the answers to the Jewish question, and a Jewish "mass" that (from the vantage point of this elite) awaited instruction on the matter, that the pedagogical function of a text like Altneuland must be assessed.
In sum, what is distinctive about Herzl's "answer" to the problem of Jewish emancipation is the specific way in which he borrowed from the generic regulae of the nineteenth century utopian tradition, weaving nationalist themes into the fabric of his utopian vision, in an attempt to produce a "Jewish nationalism." This is underscored by Herzl's explicit admissions of the power the signifier "Palestine" would have to mobilize Jews in constituting a coherent national identity (see JS 82, 96). Indeed, the eventual narrowing of focus onto Palestine as the goal of Jewish resettlement--which, to Herzl's mind, could only retain feasibility with the founding of a Jewish state--seemed to consummate Herzl and his compatriots attempts to establish a national mythos: an invented nationalism that was to provide both the means for actualizing abstract utopian promises and the cement for Jewish nation building.
The basis for this national identity, however, is far from clear within the terms established by Herzl himself, let alone within terms contested between Zionists and those with whom they came into contact. For Altneuland was by Herzl's own standards a "failed" novel. He expected it to solidify the international Zionist movement and to educate Jews about the practicalities of building a state in Palestine. Instead, it was met with reserved disapproval on the part of Herzl's friends and with derision from his opponents. Ahad Ha'am, an outspoken critic of Herzlian "political Zionism," ridiculed the assumption in Altneuland that Jews would be able to have achieved so much in only twenty years, or that anti-Semitism would simply have "disappeared." (270-7; Cf Bein 405-9). Others--especially the religiously conservative figures constellated around the Agudat Israel movement--were literally horrified at the lack of "Jewish" character in Herzl's New Society, where religion was to be privatized, and where the trappings of Western European cultural life were to be adopted tout court. Was not Herzl's Jerusalem more a reproduction of "bourgeois Vienna" than "the capital of the Promised Land?" These rejections of Altneuland were not only a matter of bitter personal disappointment for Herzl; they also led directly to growing challenges to his leadership (over his failure to have procured a successful deal with the Ottoman Sultan), to rejection of his Uganda proposal, and ultimately to a series of splits in the Zionist movement itself which only deepened after Herzl's death in 1904 (see Bein 411-503).
The failure of Altneuland to establish a common front among Zionists vis-a-vis the colonization of Palestine gives pause for consideration of the role of Herzl's vision for the movement as a whole. After all, Herzl was not the sole progenitor of the notion of "returning" to Palestine. The "Zionist Idea," to use Arthur Hertzberg's phrase, is in fact far older than Herzl (see Don-Yehiya, Gorni, Halpern and Reinhartz), rooted in customary beliefs about the "promise of liberation" from bondage, suffering, and anti-Semitism, and enunciated repeatedly by members of Jewish communities in the diaspora since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Theological, literary and folkloric references to Zion as the site of return and of the reversal of all conditions of Galut [exile] have a considerable history (see Eisen). The famous "yearning" for Zion (etymologically, the word is synonymous with "Jerusalem") announced in Psalm 137--"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!"--has in fact served as the matrix for numerous historical articulations for the liberation of Jews from their "alienated state" in the diaspora.
This myriad of customary references to territorial redemption is notable for the way eschatological promise is interwoven with protocols for politico-institutional mobilization. It was particularly resonant among Jews in Eastern Europe (which demographically held the most significant concentration of Jews), who had not yet "entered" the liberal society of the nineteenth century and continued to be exposed to violence and persecution, quintessentially expressed in the pogroms of the late nineteenth century. For them, Herzl's political ideas, however "Western"--and therefore foreign--they may have sounded, seemed to allow for a reopening of eschatological perspectives on a larger sacred history that encompassed both the particularities of their oppression and possible avenues of escape. However much Herzl may have found these appropriations of his views regrettably anachronistic, their influence on the World Zionist Congress was indelible; in a relatively short time, history seemed to have passed the mantle eastward, wresting from Herzl and his colleagues the exclusive authority of defining the way to, let alone the ultimate contents of, an "emancipated" Jewish society in Palestine.
This historical tension between Herzl's "bourgeois, scientific utopianism" and "East European messianism" is frequently pointed out in the literature on Zionism. But underlying the differences between these factions and ideological streams we can find two principal metanarratives being counterpoised: that of the so-called "political Zionists" (Herzl, Weizmann, Jabotinsky and the Revisionists, A.D. Gordon and the socialists, etc) and that of the "religious Zionists" (the Mizrachi Party, Rabbi Reines, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, etc) (see Don-Yehiya). Arthur Hertzberg traces these two poles of Zionist thinking to the two fundamental Jewish responses to the Emancipation: "the defensive" and "the messianic" (29ff). Michael Walzer distinguishes between a pragmatic, this--worldly "Exodus politics" and a fanatical, irrational "messianic politics" that constitute, not only the two poles of Zionist thought, but the range of Western emancipatory thinking in general (133-149). Unlike the political programme adopted by Moses in the wilderness and at Sinai (which called for the need to compromise or revise one's goals in the face of particular situations, and recalled the conditional character of promises made), "messianic politics" implies a readiness on the part of its proponents to "force the End" and take deliverance into their own hands: a sanctification of destructive forces and uncompromising visions (138-140).
But such typologies, as Hertzberg himself freely admits, have only limited explanatory power. The hybridized narrative strategy we find in Herzlian "political Zionism" is not unique to the secular-minded ideologues of the movement. On the contrary, the interweaving of eschatological promise and politico-institutional mobilization was common to all forms of Zionist activity: the variegated reinterpretations of the faith in the "promise of liberation" from bondage, suffering, and anti-Semitism. Don-Yehiya reminds us, for instance, that religious conservatives were hardly removed from the fray of Realpolitik when they rejected the "culturalist" model of Zionism put forth by Ahad Ha'am and threw their weight behind Herzl instead. By "infiltrating" Herzl's political movement--the implicit goal of the Mizrachi party--religious conservatives hoped to secure a monopoly on Jewish identity formation by proclaiming themselves the exclusive interpreters of the "messianic" significance of the "profane" event of Jewish settlement in Palestine (191-193). This attitude toward political instrumentalism was taken even further by the enormously influential Rabbi Kook, who argued that the secular nationalists who followed in Herzl's footsteps, far from having abandoned the religious paradigm of Jewish identity, were unwittingly carrying it further by colonizing Palestine and creating conditions that were amenable to the Final Redemption. Kook writes:
Jewish secular nationalism is a form of self-delusion: the spirit of Israel
is so closely linked to the spirit of God that a Jewish nationalist, no
matter how secularist his intention may be, must, despite himself, affirm
the divine. An individual can sever the tie that binds him to life eternal,
but the House of Israel as a whole cannot. All of its most cherished national
possessions--its land, language, history, and customs--are vessels of the
spirit of the Lord . . . How should men of faith respond to an age of
ideological ferment which affirms all of these values in the name of
nationalism and denies their source, the rootedness of the national spirit,
in God? To oppose Jewish nationalism, even in speech, and to denigrate its
values is not permissible, for the spirit of God and the spirit of Israel
are identical. What they must do is work all the harder at the task of
uncovering the light and holiness implicit in our national spirit, the
divine element which is its core. The secularists will thus be constrained
to realize that they are immersed and rooted in the life of God and bathed
in the radiant sanctity that comes from above. (430)
That religious leaders like Kook were able to translate the theological grounds for the Jewish yearning for territorial redemption into a schema for political mobilization testifies to the fact that Herzl was not the only Zionist to have collapsed its "messianic" and the "profane" elements, and that this same hybridizing gesture was introduced by different parties to very different ideological ends. As we have seen, political Zionists readily mobilized the narrative of the Promised Land and the Redemption to legitimate their claims on the territory of Palestine. And religious Zionists supported the same political claims for the purpose of enacting precisely those religious narratives to which political Zionists have appealed. By drawing attention to this hybridity, we can note how "messianic" Zionism is wholly infused with an understanding of the political instruments associated with "exodus politics" and at the same time how Herzlian, or "pragmatic," Zionism is everywhere infused with a messianic faith and utopian imagination. The historical enactment of Zionism as a "racination" of Jewish identity in the land of Palestine has freely borrowed from both halves of Walzer's political typology.
This hybridity calls once more for attention to the spatiality that imbricates utopian discourse and geopolitical practice. What Herzl and Nordau postulated "scientifically"--an image of Palestine as a technologically transformed object, and of the Jew as its physically transformed resident--those immersed in the Torah and the Talmud postulated in theological terms. Abraham Berkowitz reminds us that, according to Biblical narrative, the Promised Land was not a magical kingdom, but rather the antithesis of a mysterious and enchanted realm beyond the bounds of concrete reality. It was, after all, from a magical land--the wilderness of the Sinai, where manna fell from the sky--that the Jews had emerged when they "first" claimed Palestine as a land of their own:
in the Promised Land ... the miracles of the desert would cease. In the
land of their redemption, the Jews would no longer live in such close
proximity to God's immediate manifest presence. Instead, God's direct
immediacy would recede behind the veil of created nature and the rational
order of the world would reemerge as primary. Thus, the arrival of the Jews
in the Holy Land did not lift God's chosen people from the semi-supernatural
realm of the desert into a more refined and purified state of permanent
exaltation, a perfected heavenly abode, wherein their mortality could be
altogether transcended. Rather, it rooted them in the real world, the
concrete and mundane world of created nature which God himself ordained so
as to order and organize His universe. (36)
In Biblical narrative, the same borderlines which delineate the Promised Land as a land set aside for the Jews, also delineate the territories contiguous to the Land of Israel, setting those areas aside for their inhabitants. "In this manner," Berkowitz argues, "Israel's territorial boundaries also demystify the Holy Land to the other nations of the world whose national patrimonies are indistinguishable to the naked eye from the national patrimony of God's chosen people" (37). What brighter illumination can be found of Zionism's utopian spatial practice than this sanctifying formula for the "emplacement" of peoples in specific geopolitical territories? Perhaps, then, we can say that utopia, at least in its prototypical Western (ie, Biblical) form, has never been hidden away in another spatio-temporal dimension. Perhaps it has always been "here," in the world, embraced by some, rejected by others, and enacted on the backs of others still.
(*) A version of this paper was presented at The Society of Utopian Studies' 20th Annual Meeting, Toronto, 19-22 October, 1995. I would like to thank the following people in particular for their judicious reading and criticisms of earlier drafts: Danielle Filion, Barbara Godard, Ato Sekyi-Otu, and Lyman Tower-Sargent. This paper was in part made possible through the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
(1.) As a general rule, I have followed the Alkow translation of Der Judenstaat (Herzl 1988), but I have taken the liberty to modify certain passages, based on the German original as found in Herzl's Gesammelte Zionistische Werke (Herzl 1935). All further references to Der Judenstaat will cite pagination in the English edition (Herzl 1988), but will be preceded by the initials "JS."
(2.) All citations are based on the Levensohn translation of Altneuland (Herzl 1987), but there have been some modifications based on the German original as found in Herzl's Gesammelte Zionistische Werke (Bd. V) (Herzl 1935). All further references to Altneuland will cite pagination in the English edition (Herzl 1987), but will be preceded by the initials "ANL."
(3.) In the limited context of this paper it would be impossible to carry out an exhaustive narratological analysis of Altneuland. The various motors--or, to borrow from the terminology of Algirdas Greimas, the "actantial operators" (71f)--that govern its diegesis would require extended discussion to adumbrate in full. One thinks here, for instance, of such complex devices as the "ventriloquism" on the basis of which characters are generated and focalization is organized. Indeed, it is relatively well known that the main characters in Altneuland all refer to leading luminaries in the Zionist movement, or to other important figures in Herzl's "political" affairs. Lowenberg is widely considered to be something of an autobiographical character (see Bein); Littwak refers to Herzl's friend and successor as President of the World Zionist Congress, Irving Wolffsohn; Steinek is supposed to represent Herzl's friend Oskar Marmorek, the architect; Old-New Land's chief engineer Fischer is a novelistic version of the Swiss engineer Abraham Bourcart; and so on (see Wenkert 243-6). But this ventriloquial function extends also to the generation of characters who speak for the silent. Reschid Bey, for instance, "speaks for" the Arabs, and thus metonymically stands in for them as a whole.
An analysis of the organization of "fabula time" into "story time" would also proffer significant insights. For one thing, it is notable that the anachrony in tabula time generated in the text--the "gap" between 1902 and 1923--is filled up in the story time with (chronologically homonymous) "dream time" as experienced by the main characters. One of the effects that this anachrony produces is of a thaumaturgical nature: an emptying out of the chronotopic contents of Palestine in 1902 and their replacement with new contents (in 1923) without narrative development. The transubstantiation of Palestine from desert to garden, in other words, occurs without conflict, resolution, or mediation: a chiasmus that is simply posited without any accompanying frame. This temporal juxtaposition of Palestine "before" and "after" functions strategically in the text to reinforce the "miraculous" character of what the Jews were able to achieve.
My use of the terms "fabula" (the elemental contents, fictitious or "real," structured by laws of chronological and spatial coherence) and "story" (the arrangement of these contents in a specific manner) come from Mieke Bal's adaption of Genette's terms in her extremely useful Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1985).
(4.) This bears a striking resemblance to Herzl's journal entries about his sole trip to Palestine, Upon arriving in Jerusalem, for instance, Herzl writes:
When I remember thee in days to come, O Jerusalem, it will not be with
pleasure. The musty deposits of two thousand years of inhumanity,
intolerance, and uncleanliness lie in the foul-smelling alleys ... If we
ever get Jerusalem and I am still able to do anything actively at that time,
I would begin by cleaning it up. I would clear out everything that is not
something sacred, set up workers' homes outside the city, empty the nests of
filth and tear them down, burn the secular ruins, and transfer the bazaars
elsewhere. Then, retaining the old architectural style as much as possible,
I would build around the Holy Places a comfortable, airy new city with
proper sanitation. (1960:II, 745-6)
(5.) Compare this to Herzl's animated dismissal of the utopianism of such writers as Edward Bellamy (author of Looking Backward) as voiced by the Altneuland character David Littwak:
In that Utopia, all may cat as much as they please from the common platter.
The lamb and the wolf feed in the same pasture. Very fine. Only then, the
wolves are no longer wolves and human beings are no longer human . . .
Beautiful dreams, indeed, or airships if you care to call them that--but
not dirigible. Because these noble lovers of humanity based their ingenious
schemes on a false premise ... they were guilty of a petitio principii.
They used as evidence something that still had to be proven, namely that
humanity had already achieved that degree of maturity and freedom of
judgment which is necessary for the establishment of a new social order.
(6.) Utopia, in fact, tends to be most commonly discussed today with reference to its temporal constitution: an aspiration for the future, a realization of that which has not yet been, and so on. Ernst Bloch, perhaps this century's most important writer on the theme of utopia, has argued that a historical transformation in utopian thinking has transposed it from the spatial to the temporal register. "I believe that we live nor very far from the topos of utopia, as far as the contents are concerned," he writes,
and less far from utopia. At the very beginning Thomas More designated
utopia as a place, an island in the distant South Seas. This designation
underwent changes later so that it left space and entered time. Indeed, the
utopians, especially those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
transposed the wishland more into the future. In other words, there is a
transformation of the topos from space into time. On the other hand, when
it is transposed into the future, not only am I not there, but utopia
itself is also not with itself. This island does not even exist. But it is
not something like nonsense or absolute fancy; rather it is not yet in the
sense of a possibility; that it could be there if we could only do
something for it. Not only if we travel there, but in that we travel there
the island utopia arises out of the sea of the possible--utopia, but with
new contents. (3; Cf Marin 1984:9)
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