Max Simon Nordau (born Simon Maximilian Südfeld; July 29, 1849 – January 23, 1923), was a Zionist leader, physician, author, and social critic.
He was a co-founder of the World Zionist Organization together with Theodor Herzl, and president or vice president of several Zionist congresses.
As a social critic, he wrote a number of controversial books, including The Conventional Lies of Our Civilisation (1883), Degeneration (1892), and Paradoxes (1896). Although not his most popular or successful work whilst alive, Degeneration is the book most often remembered and cited today.
Nordau was born Simon Maximilian, or Simcha Südfeld, on 29 July 1849 in Pest, then part of the Austrian Empire. His father was Gabriel Südfeld, a Hebrew poet. His family were religious Orthodox Jews and he attended a Jewish elementary school, then a Catholic grammar school, before receiving a medical degree from the University of Budapest in 1872. He then traveled for six years, visiting the principal countries of Europe. He changed his name before going to Berlin in 1873. In 1878, he began the practice of medicine in Budapest. In 1880 he went to Paris. He worked in Paris as a correspondent for Die Neue Freie Presse, and it was in Paris that he spent most of his life.
Before entering the university, he had begun his literary career at Budapest as contributor and dramatic critic for Der Zwischenact. Subsequently, he was an editorial writer and correspondent for several other newspapers. His newspaper writings were collected and furnished the material for his earlier books. He was a disciple of Cesare Lombroso.
Nordau was an example of a fully assimilated and acculturated European Jew. Despite being raised religious, Nordau was an agnostic. He was married to a Protestant Christian woman and, despite his Hungarian background, he felt affiliated to German culture, writing in an autobiographical sketch, "When I reached the age of fifteen, I left the Jewish way of life and the study of the Torah... Judaism remained a mere memory and since then I have always felt as a German and as a German only." Max Nordau was the father of painter Maxa Nordau (1897–1991)...
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