Length: 307 pages
About: Life perspective changed after widower attacked
Style: 3rd person
Where: England (London)
Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer, and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a
prickly relationship and very different lives, they've never lost touch with each other, or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik.
Dining together one night at Sevcik's apartment—the two Jewish widowers and the unmarried Gentile, Treslove—the men share a sweetly painful evening, reminiscing on a time before they had loved and
lost, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. But as Treslove makes his way home, he is attacked and mugged outside a violin dealer's window. Treslove is convinced the
crime was a misdirected act of anti-Semitism, and in its aftermath, his whole sense of self will ineluctably change.
He should have seen it coming.
His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one.
He was a man who saw things coming. Not shadowy premonitions before and after sleep, but real and present dangers in the daylit world. Lamp posts and trees reared up at him, splintering his shins.
Speeding cars lost control and rode on to the footpath leaving him lying in a pile of torn tissue and mangled bones. Sharp objects dropped from scaffolding and pierced his skull.
Women worst of all. When a woman of the sort Julian Treslove found beautiful crossed his path it wasn’t his body that took the force but his mind. She shattered his calm.
True, he had no calm, but she shattered whatever calm there was to look forward to in the future. She was the future.
Even in its darkest moments “The Finkler Question” offers many examples of Finkler humor. At that Lewis Carroll Seder, where Treslove struggles to understand the Jews’ exotic tribal customs, Libor
tells him straight-facedly that “the chicken symbolizes the pleasure Jewish men take in having a team of women to cook it for them.” When Finkler says he doesn’t have anti-Semitic friends, Libor
answers: “Yes, you do. The Jewish ones.” And when one character’s grandson is the victim of a hate crime, along comes a radical-chic Jewish film director to say that anti-Semitism makes perfect sense
to him. Actually, as Treslove discovers during the course of this book, that last remark embodies the most pernicious and authentic strain of Jewish humor: the kind that’s so real it isn’t funny at
The New York Times , Janet Maslin October 20, 2010 for full review click here
Not so good:
This vision, in which Jews are God-like, and non-Jews must inevitably become either God-lovers or God-haters, has the functional utility of interpreting anti-Semitism as a twisted form of love,
while by the same token suggesting that philo-Semitism is a twisted form of hate. The novel is ultimately politically fatalistic in similar ways. Needless to say, this is a decisively male and modern
version of Jewishness, much influenced by the historic pugilism of Philip Roth’s weaker novels. It also appears to be Jacobson’s preferred version of both Jewishness and Jewish comic fiction. Forced
down the funnel of a reductive brand of English comic writing, this vision issues in caricature.
The New Yorker, James Wood 8th November 2010 for full review click here
About the author
Born in Manchester (25 August 1942), raised in Prestwich, and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, before going on to study English at Downing College, Cambridge under F. R. Leavis.
He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to England to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His later teaching posts included a period at Wolverhampton Polytechnic from
1974 to 1980. Jacobson married his first wife when he was 22. He married his second wife, Rosalin Sadler, in 1965; they divorced in 1995. In 2005, Jacobson was married for the third time, to radio
and TV documentary maker Jenny De Yong.