Max Simon Nordau - Encyclopedia

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MAX SIMON NORDAU (1849-), German author and philosopher, was born of Jewish parents at Budapest on the 29th of July 1849. He studied medicine and travelled widely through Europe until 1878, when he settled down as a practitioner in his native town. In 1880 he removed to Paris, and in addition to his professional work took up the study of art, literature and social questions. His investigations were marked by a critical accuracy which endeavoured to weigh data and deduce results with a fearless disregard of conventional ideas. In his Entartung he applied the theory of physical degeneration to the intellectual side of civilized man, and endeavoured to show that in art, literature and social evolution there is decadence and hysteria; confused aesthetic theory, mysticism in thought, so-called "realism" in art, all alike indicate the vain spasmodic struggling of an effete civilization. In Die konventionellen Liigen der Kulturmenschheit (1884), the same destructive method is applied to politics and to social science. Yet Nordau was not a pessimist. In the Paradoxes psychologiques (1885) he expressed his profound and reasoned conviction that the "Degeneration" of the time was only temporary. This optimism was seen in his enthusiastic support of Dr Herzl's Zionist movement. In connexion with the British government's offer of land for a Jewish settlement in East Africa, there was a fundamental difference of opinion among the various Jewish societies. Herzl and Nordau were accused of giving up the idea of returning to Palestine, and substituting the African scheme. This idea provoked great hostility, and at a Zionist Ball in Paris (19th of December 1903) a Jew named Louban Chain Selik fired two shots at Nordau unsuccessfully. The outrage drew from Herzl a letter (The Times, 22nd of December) which clearly set forth the view held by himself and Nordau as to the ultimate destiny of the Zionist Movement.


. - Novels and Stories: Seifenblasen, Federzeichnungen and Geschichten (1879); Die Krankheit des Jahrhunderts (1889); Gefithlskomodie (1892); Die Drohnenschlacht (1897); Morganatisch (1904). Dramas: Die neuen Journalisten (in collaboration with F. Gross, 1880); Der Krieg der Millionen (1882); Das Recht zu lieben (2nd ed., 1894); Die Kugel (1894); and Doktor Kohn (1898). He published also Vom Kreml zur Alhambra (1880), an account of his travels, and three works descriptive of Paris and the Parisians- Pariser Studien aus dem wahren Milliardenlande (1878); Paris unter der dritten Republik (1881); Ausgewdhlte Pariser Briefe (1887); two further volumes of criticism, Zeitgenossische Franzosen, literaturgeschichtliche essays (Berlin, 1901); and Von Kunst and Kiinstlern (Leipzig, 1905).

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