Monday, November 08, 2010

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson: A Review

By John Cheeran
The Finkler Question raises many questions on morality, identity and friendship. Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker Prize winning novel is witty and engaging but not an easy read.
Anyone who can write this line, “Death was his only serious rival,” must be good.
And, honestly, I don’t find that funny.
Jacobson, while portraying a gentile and former BBC worker Julian Treslove’s search for his imagined Jewish self in the company of his Jewish friends, gives an unconventional novel, a novel of political and moral relevance when pitted with today’s realities.
It’s about Jewishness but then it is much more than that.
In Jacobson’s own words: “This (The Finkler Question) is a novel about love, loyalty, memory and loss. Mainly it is about the way these things impinge on person to person love, but it is also about the way they impinge upon ideas, and Israel is an important contemporary idea.”
They say The Finkler Question is a comic novel but I find it deeply unsettling, and engaging in that sense. The fact that Jacobson is a Jew does not stop him mocking at the chosen people. But through Sam Finkler, the ashamed Jewish philosopher, Jacobson exposes the hypocrisy of those who hate Jewish people simply for being Jews and captures the fear of another wave of anti-Jewishness flowing from anti-Zionism.
The changing equations among the three friends – two Jews --Libor, Finkler -- and Gentile Treslove –,indeed, hold answers to our own dilemmas in this shifty world.

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