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The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

The Finkler Question (edition 2011)

by Howard Jacobson

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1,6971134,203 (3.05)291
Title:The Finkler Question
Authors:Howard Jacobson
Info:Bloomsbury Paperbacks (2011), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:novel, 2012, unfinished

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The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson


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Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Very funny indeed! Thoughtful, clever, a bit uneven. Great reading. ( )
  sberson | Sep 27, 2014 |
The worst book I've read this year. How it won the Man Booker Prize, I'll never know. I have a hundred page rule, which is that if I am over 100 pages into a book I finish it. I will be reviewing that rule now. It was such a grind to finish this book. And to think I was looking forward to it simply because the author is articulate and witty in person. Perhaps it was simply the theme of the book that bored me? ( )
  KerryD1971 | Sep 20, 2014 |
The Finkler Question, award-winning, celebrated as it is, did not appeal to me as I had expected. Perhaps the stories of the three main characters, the hapless Treslove, Finkler, the Jewish television celbrity in opposition to his background and Lebor, the famous retired Jewish celebrity journalist, never rose above the mundane, at least not for me. I also found Jacobsen's writing a bit too clever at times. The subject matter never gave me much reason to laugh. If you're into zionism, anti-semitism or are really into contemporary Jewish culture, perhaps the novel will appeal more to you than it did to me. ( )
2 vote petterw | Aug 16, 2014 |
(23) This was the 2010 Booker Award winner so I am a bit late in reading it but not so late that it should seem dated to me, but yet it does a bit. Maybe I am just clueless but I don't feel like Jewish people are particularly different or other in the US. Maybe it's different in the UK? This book was very character driven. Unfortunately, our main character, Julian Treslove, is unlikable and wish-washy. He is mugged in what he thinks could be a case of mistaken identity. The mugger thought he was a Jew. This begins for him a self -imposed life as a Jew, in which he attempts to figure them out. Answer the 'Finkler Question', as his frenemy, Sam Finkler, a prominent Jewish writer is called, so he calls all Jewish people.

The writing was decent and the book moved along in terms of pace, I'll give it that. But it's themes were monotonous and overwrought. And Julian was such a milksop, it should have been him over that bluff instead of Libor who probably was the only likable character in the whole novel. I think one interesting thing I gleaned from this novel was that there is significant opposition to Israel from none other than Jewish people. Really? I have always been staunchly on the side of Israel as is the US in General. Again, maybe things are different in the UK.

Just OK for me. Little redemption or even intellectual progress in this novel, that's not even mentioning an essentially non-existent plot. Oh well, it is possible I just didn't 'get it' right? Being a non-Jew and all. I almost felt that was what the author was trying to say to me. ( )
  jhowell | Aug 3, 2014 |
I don't really know what made me read this book. It is hard to say why I found it so enjoyable. At times sad and then very, very funny. Howard Jacobson certainly has a silver tongue, or pen, if you prefer, his words flow easily and smoothly. I did not like his characters and yet he made me care about them and worry for them.
SPOILER.. .. .. ..
Treslove, taking a woman who confessed to being an arsonist who “loved flames” to bed, awoke next morning to two certainties: First, she was gone. Second, the bed was on fire. ( )
  Novak | Dec 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Fans of Howard Jacobson might be alarmed to discover that the main character in his latest novel is a Gentile. As it turns out, though, they needn’t worry. Julian Treslove may not be Jewish, but in most other respects he’s a typical Jacobson protagonist: a middle-aged man much given to tears, self-interrogation, a sense of imminent doom, falling heavily in love and regarding his male friends as his male rivals. Above all, he’s obsessed with Jews and Jewishness.
The Finkler Question (longlisted for this year's Man Booker prize) is full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding. It is also beautifully written with that sophisticated and near invisible skill of the authentic writer. Technically the characterisation is impeccable, the prose a subtle delight, the word selection everywhere perfect, the phrase-making fresh and arresting without self-consciousness. Indeed, there's so much that is first rate in the manner of Jacobson's delivery that I could write all day on his deployment of language without once mentioning what the book is about. A single line describing the hero's father will have to do: "a man who stood so straight that he created a kind of architectural silence around himself".
The Finkler Question is very funny, utterly original, and addresses a topic of contemporary fascination. That is to say, it is about the anguish of middle-aged men, it consists of a series of loosely arranged episodes rich in argument and incident, and it examines how Jews now interrogate their relations with Israel.

It puts in play a gentile fascinated by Jews, and his two Jewish friends, one a Zionist comfortable in London, and the other an anti-Zionist comfortable in his outrage. They engage with each other in sometimes moving, sometimes bathetic ways, making their own journeys of self-understanding while they exasperatedly strive to educate each other.

The anti-Zionist Jew is called Finkler, hence the title of the novel. The "question" of "Finkler" is today's version of the "Jewish question". At the end of the 19th century, Jews asked of themselves, and were asked, "What is the future of the Jewish people?" At the end of the 20th century, this question had been reformulated as "What is the future of the Jewish state?" In Jacobson's book, Finkler dwells among those miscellaneous Jews who answer the question in versions of condemnation of Israel, Zionism, and Judaism.
The Finkler Question is a terrifying and ambitious novel, full of dangerous shallows and dark, deep water. It takes in the mysteries of male friendship, the relentlessness of grief and the lure of emotional parasitism. In its insistent interrogation of Jewishness – from the exploration of the relationship between the perpetrators of violence and hatred and their victims, to the idea of the individual at once in opposition to and in love with his or her culture – it is by turns breezily open and thought-provokingly opaque, and consistently wrong-foots the reader. For Treslove, the committed shape-shifter with little really at stake, such demands unsurprisingly prove rather too much. "Would he ever get to the bottom," he wonders, "of the things Finklers did and didn't do?"
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To the memory of three dear friends, great givers of laughter

Terry Collits (1940-2009)

Tony Errington (1944-2009)

Graham Rees (1944-2009)

Who now will set the table on a roar?

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He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one.
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Book description
He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one... 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 quite lost touch with each other or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results. Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor s grand, central London apartment. It s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends losses.And it s that very evening, at exactly 11:30 pm, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
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Julian Treslove, a radio producer, and Samuel Finkler, a Jewish philosopher, have been friends since childhood and, as they enter middle age, they reminisce over their struggles with self-identity, anti-Semitism, women, love, and the past.

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