From Paris to Izmir, Rome, and Jerusalem: Armand Lévy as the missing link between Polish Romantic Nationalism and Zionism

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This article focuses on Armand Lévy, Adam Mickiewicz’s secretary, as the missing link between Romantic Polish nationalism and proto-Zionism. It examines Lévy’s interpretation of Adam Mickiewicz’s use of Jewish motifs and how Lévy’s interpretation provided his friend and neighbour in Paris, Moses Hess, a German-Jewish socialist, colleague and rival of Karl Marx, with a repertoire he had lacked to structure his proto-Zionist ideas.

The article discusses how ideas from one cultural sphere were transferred to others. Mickiewicz, seeking to find ways to strengthen the Polish nation-building process following the partition of his motherland, used his interpretation of the contemporary Jewish Diaspora as a model. His secretary, the Frenchman Armand Lévy, reinterpreted Mickiewicz’s interpretation. His convoluted life course eventually led him to think about the Jews in nationalist terms via the discursive tools he acquired from Mickiewicz. Going beyond the latter’s views, Lévy regarded the Jews as a diasporic nation aspiring to gain political statehood. He championed Jewish messianism as a concrete step towards the Jews’ sovereignty. This, in turn, provided Moses Hess with a repertoire he had lacked until this point: namely, an acquaintance with Jews who were committed to renewing the sovereign Jewish life as of old.

The article shows how Armand Lévy – a person acting in a sociological ‘contact zone’, i.e. in a social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple – was able to cross the boundaries of Frenchness, Polishness, Jewishness, cosmopolitanism and nationalism, transferring motifs between Jewish and non-Jewish émigrés in complex ways which provoked unexpected results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-116
JournalActa Poloniae Historica
StatePublished - 2021


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