Daniel Deronda

From Oct ’06 Spotlight: The publication of George Elliot’s novel Daniel Deronda in 1876 was a milestone in Emma Lazarus’s intellectual development. As Esther Schor tells it in her new biography, Lazarus credited her debates about the book with various friends with “opening her eyes to the cause of a Jewish homeland.”

Tim Hooper, who recently won multiple Emmy awards for Elizabeth I, helmed the BBC adaptation of Daniel Deronda in 2002. Condensing a 737-page Victorian novel into 210-minute mini-series is a big job, but screenwriter Andrew Davies (best known for everyone’s favorite BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) gives full weight to Daniel’s discovery of his Jewish identity. The world Elliot creates for Daniel is much like the world of privilege in which Lazarus actually lived, and the prejudice he encounters did much to open her eyes to her status as a Jew in her own mixed social set.

“The idea that I am possessed with is that of restoring a political existence to my people, making them a nation again,” says Daniel, twenty years before Theodor Herzl published Der Judenstaat in 1896 and convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897.

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