The Finkler Question

Howard Jacobson, Author
Howard Jacobson, Bloomsbury, $15 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-611-1
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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Winner of the 2010 Booker Prize, Jacobson’s wry, devastating novel examines the complexities of identity and belonging, love and grief, through the lens of contemporary Judaism. Julian Treslove, a former BBC producer who works as a celebrity double, feels out of sync with his longtime friend and sometimes rival Sam Finkler, a popular author of philosophy-themed self-help books and a rabidly anti-Zionist Jewish scholar. The two have reconnected with their elderly professor, Libor Sevcik, following the deaths of Finkler and Libor’s wives, leaving Treslove—the bachelor Gentile—even more out of the loop. But after Treslove is mugged—the crime has possible anti-Semitic overtones—he becomes obsessed with what it means to be Jewish, or “a Finkler.” Jacobson brilliantly contrasts Treslove’s search for a Jewish identity—through food, spurts of research, sex with Jewish women—with Finkler’s thorny relationship with his Jewish heritage and fellow Jews. Libor, meanwhile, struggles to find his footing after his wife’s death, the intense love he felt for her reminding Treslove of the belonging he so craves. Jacobson’s prose is effortless—witty when it needs to be, heartbreaking where it counts—and the Jewish question becomes a metaphor without ever being overdone. (Oct.)

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