Book Review:

The Finkler Question

by Howard Jacobson


Maybe I am missing something but I found it rather self-indulgent and the characters difficult to sympathise with. Nor do I find them 'wonderfully comic'.  Once or twice I raised a smile but that was all. There was endless repetition of the incident when Treslove was mugged. Maybe this reflects the way people do go over events in order to make some sense of them but, in a novel, this was one attempt at realism that I could have done without.

One would have to say that Jacobson certainly has a terrific vocabulary and turns out a well crafted sentence which I am inclined to enjoy. Perhaps that is why I kept on reading.

The whole book is really a vehicle for a philosophical debate on 'the Jewish question' - an exercise in navel gazing on the part of the author. It is clever in that Finkler, the Jewish philosopher, embodies Jewish angst rather than that just being a subject to be discussed. There are also other characters who challenge Jewishness -or Finklerishness - such as Finkler's son who (surprisingly) attacks some Jews and his wife who converts to Judaism and contends that his ASHamedness is itself paradoxically Jewish.

Where I think the book does succeed is that it does address some very touchy subjects regarding the right to existence of the state of Israel and the vulnerability of Jews without becoming deeply mired in politics.


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