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The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
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The Finkler Question (edition 2011)

by Howard Jacobson

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1,6541094,356 (3.05)282
Member:Maddingreader
Title:The Finkler Question
Authors:Howard Jacobson
Info:Bloomsbury Paperbacks (2011), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:novel, 2012, unfinished

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The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

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English (105)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (109)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
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 |
I really enjoyed this. Although not sure it is everyone's cup of tea. It centers on the relationships between 3 men. 2 Middle aged with grown children and 1 at the end of his life. 2 of the men are widowers and grieving (or not) in their own ways for their lost wives. The 3rd man - the protagonist - starts as single and ends with a partner. The widowers are all Jewish, and the 3rd man wants to be Jewish. The book explores the way that the men relate to each other, to being Jewish (or not), to loving their wives (or not). The book asks many questions and answers some - you can't really ask more than that. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
Middle aged Julian Treslove has been friends with Sam Finkler since school days. Sam happens to be a Jew. So does their good friend Libor, an old school master who has remained a close friend.

Sam and Libor also share the recent loss of their wives. Julian has never seemed to have lost anything but is always on the brink of losing something. He is always longing for what he hasn't got -and this includes a Jewish heritage.

I find it hard to describe my feelings towards this book. I am glad that I finished it. I did not particularly like any of the characters. I can see the merit in the writing. I would not want to read it again. ( )
  TheWasp | Sep 25, 2013 |
This is a book that rewards the patient and perseverant, which is a nice way of saying that it was not until the last quarter of the novel that I found any particular redeeming qualities.

Early on, I began to wonder to whom I might recommend the book. Would it be to someone who enjoys interesting characters with redeemable qualities? I don't think so. I felt the male characters ranged from unbearable (2 of 3) to nearly bearable (1). The single (living) female character left me generally perplexed.

Would it be for the promised humor? I usually have a pretty subtle ear for humor, but it eluded me throughout.

Would I recommend it to zealots on one side or another of the endless Chosen People/Promised vs Holy Land debate? Not really, there was no new ground plowed here.

I would like to recommend it to friends of lyrical fiction, but I am afraid that there is too much clutter to offer that recommendation without hesitation.

So finally, ironically, I am left with the question, Why am I pleased to have read Finkler? I'm afraid I'll need to think for another while. ( )
  mabroms | Sep 3, 2013 |
TO: slaverm - - WOW! Condescension and anti-American all in the same very tediously long and revealingly immodest attempted review of THE FINKLER QUESTION! I am one of those who lambasted TFQ on Amazon. FYO: I am a gentile Briton, a retired scientist with degrees in Human Sciences (Imperial College) and History (Reading) and with my advanced years I can safely say I have travelled, worked, read widely and variously in 2 languages apart from English all over the World. The Finkler Question did not deserve the Booker-Mann Prize as it is, like your review, both tedious and banal about 3 characters who are the antithesis of considered characterisation as well as relevance to the factual or fictional reality of modern Jews residing in London. A realisation/conclusion so many of the Jewish reviewers of TFQ on Amazon clearly stated had you not been so full of yourself to have looked at more closely. I will add the only character in TFQ's narrative worthy of note and engaging the reader's interest/concern is the extremely put-upon Hephzibah, Jewess wife and innocent victim of the very tiresome Treslove. ( )
  tommi180744 | Aug 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (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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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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