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The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel by…
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The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Michael Chabon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,793345431 (3.8)490
Member:invisiblelizard
Title:The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:HarperCollins (2007), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction

Work details

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (2007)

  1. 141
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
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    The City & The City by China Miéville (grizzly.anderson, kaipakartik)
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    The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (Pagemistress)
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    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both are alternate histories set in a USA changed by World War Two.
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    The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (melmore)
    melmore: Another book with a detective protagonist attempting to come to terms with his life and his relationships.
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    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (ljbwell)
    ljbwell: Alternate history based in the US where WWII has had a different outcome.
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    hairball: While one is an alternative history and the other is based around historical fact (Argentina's disappeared), they have a similar flavor to them.
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» See also 490 mentions

English (334)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (345)
Showing 1-5 of 334 (next | show all)
Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.

The author has created a gripping story of whodunit, a love story, a contributing story to 1940’s film industry and a story of exploration of the mysteries of exile and salvation. Chabon is a good writer and he mastered the English grammar and Yiddish culture really well. His characters were developed to the point of matching them to different scenes but he used his characters sporadically appearing at odd times and large gaps before he brought them back into the story. There was some confusion to the story because at times I was wondering were the story was going and what aspects of it were particularly meaningful to the plot and the characters. I had no trouble with the Yiddish language entwined with the English language so that part went smoothly.

A Detective Landsman was the main character, which I didn’t really care for but after a while I seen a different side to him and cared about what would happen to him. Landsman’s character had many issues some of it to do with his separation from his wife, who is his boss. He was staying in a cheap rundown hotel with disturbed people, druggies, and alcoholics. At that time his life was in a shambles, not knowing if his marriage was over, and his career as a detective was on the edge of disaster. Landsman and his partner, Berko Shemets had a few outstanding cases that needed closing but they weren’t getting any new tips or breaks to follow. It just happens while he was sleeping in his room a murder was being committed in one of the other rooms.

Landsman’s rundown hotel was in the Jewish district of Sitka in Alaska which was a lowlife area. Now he has to unravel another case in the seedy hotel he calls home. As the story goes on there are many connections, twist, and interesting characters to entertain the reader, and it seems like Sitka is the smallest region in Alaska where everyone knows everyone. Plus, the author includes a lot of Jewish history, Mythogy and culture because that’s mostly an area where many Jewish people live. What was confusing to me is, what did I miss, what did I not understand that brought the story together at the end? Plus, the game of chess was a main issue throughout the book that had something to do with the murder. Near the end of the book why was there a Jewish compound hidden in Sitka that later ended up with a short story connecting these Jewish people celebrating in Jerusalem?

So, somehow the murder, the Jewish compound, the game of chess, and the Jewish culture where linked at the end with the Yiddish detective. There were other issues, situations, and the story about his marriage but it was just to much to comprehend. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Jul 22, 2016 |
some clever writing along the way. I guess I don't identify enough with the Jewish/Yiddish thing to really get this. Some brilliant descriptions and brif spurts of inspired prose.

Not really about plot and not even about characters, but about mood and setting. ( )
  gpaisley | Jun 18, 2016 |
Giving up at about 12%.   It was on my list because I've liked other Chabon, but this is just bs.  Sitka was never a refugee camp, and would never have a population of 3 million, or an apartment building at least 24 stories tall.  And I don't like trying to figure out why some ppl are called latkes, and I don't like yuck factor.  There are plenty of other books out there, books that will enrich me and that I will enjoy.  See ya.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
Can't wait for the movie. Also, can't believe this was based on an actual proposal to solve "the Jewish problem". ( )
  richardross79 | Jun 1, 2016 |
It took me a while to get into this novel. Even though the murder happened in chapter one, it still felt like the plot dragged on forever. Then the main character got so caught up in governmental conspiracy theories it seemed like he forgot to solve the murder. Then it felt like he chose an unexpected killer just to prove how smart he was. The ending just didn't make sense to me. The premise was really good and I think if Chabon had remembered to keep it simple, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more. ( )
  jguidry | May 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 334 (next | show all)
Chabon is a spectacular writer. He does a witty turn reinventing Yiddish for the modern Alaskan Jews - of course the lingua franca of Jews without an Israel - just a little of which I, with only faintly remembered childhood Yiddish, could grasp. A mobile phone is a shoyfer (perhaps because, like the ram's horn, it calls you), a gun is a sholem (a Yiddish version of a Peacemaker?). Chabon is a language magician, turning everything into something else just for the delight of playing tricks with words. He takes the wry, underbelly vision of the ordinary that the best of noir fiction offers and ratchets it up to the limit. Nothing is allowed to be itself; all people and events are observed as an echo of something else. Voices are like "an onion rolling in a bucket", or rusty forks falling. An approaching motorcycle is "a heavy wrench clanging against a cold cement floor. The flatulence of a burst balloon streaking across the living room and knocking over a lamp." Chabon's ornate prose makes Chandler's fruity observations of the world look quite plain. Nothing is described as just the way it is. Nothing is let be. He writes like a dream and has you laughing out loud, applauding the fun he has with language and the way he takes the task of a writer and runs delighted rings around it.

For the most part, Chabon's writing serves the knotted mystery that is being unravelled, but there is eventually a point where it begins to weary the mind, where the elaborations of things get in the way of the things themselves and the narrative gets sucked under by style. The compulsory paragraph of Byzantine physical description whenever another character arrives on the scene starts to seem an irritating interlude; another over-reaching cadenza. Though it seems churlish to complain about such a vivid talent, a little less would have been enough already.
 
It’s obvious that the creation of this strange, vibrant, unreal world is Chabon’s idea of heaven. He seems happy here, almost giddy, high on the imaginative freedom that has always been the most cherished value in his fiction.
 
Some of the pleasures of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union are, actually, distinctly Dan Brown–ish. Mr. Chabon often ends chapters with cliffhangers that might be tiresome in the hands of a lesser writer (say, Dan Brown). Here, they’re over-the-top suspenseful, savory and delicious.
 
More important, Mr. Chabon has so thoroughly conjured the fictional world of Sitka — its history, culture, geography, its incestuous and byzantine political and sectarian divisions — that the reader comes to take its existence for granted. By the end of the book, we feel we know this chilly piece of northern real estate, where Yiddish is the language of choice, the same way we feel we have come to know Meyer Landsman — this “secular policeman” who has learned to sail “double-hulled against tragedy,” ever wary of “the hairline fissures, the little freaks of torque” that can topple a boat in the shallows.
 
This novel makes you think, but it is an ordeal to read. The problem: Chabon has mixed two very dark story lines that jar the reader. There is the real tragedy of Sitka's wandering Jews, and then there is the faux bleakness of the noir genre with its posturing attitude. The central character comes across as a Jewish Humphrey Bogart wannabe, not a three-dimensional character who can shoulder a 400-plus-page novel about exile, fanatics and longing.
added by MikeBriggs | editUSA Today, Deirdre Donahue (Apr 30, 2007)
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fischer, AndreaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlson-Stanisic, LeahDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riegert, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"And they went to sea in a sieve."
- Edward Lear
Dedication
To Ayelet, bashert
First words
Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
Quotations
He likes the leash ... Without it, he doesn't sleep.
It has nothing to do with religion ... It has everything to do, God damn it, with fathers.
A Messiah who actually arrives is no good to anybody.
I don't care what is written. I don't care what supposedly got promised to some sandal-wearing idiot whose claim to fame is that he was ready to cut his own son's throat for the sake of a hare-brained idea. I don't care about red heifers and patriarchs and locusts. A bunch of old bone in the sand. My homeland is in my hat. It's in my ex-wife's tote bag.
God damn them all. I always knew they were there. Down there in Washington. Up there ever our heads. Holding the strings. Setting the agenda. Of course I knew that. We all knew that. We all grew up knowing that, right? We are here on sufferance. Houseguests. But they ignored us for so long. Left us to our own devices. It was easy to kid yourself. Make you think you had a little autonomy, in a small way, nothing fancy. I thought I was working for everyone. You know. Serving the public. Upholding the law. But really I was just working for Cashdollar.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The novel is a detective story set in an alternate history version of the present day, based on the premise that during World War II, a temporary settlement for Jewish refugees was established in Sitka, Alaska in 1941, and that the fledgling State of Israel was destroyed in 1948.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007149832, Paperback)

For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.

Homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:05 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

In a world in which Alaska, rather than Israel, has become the homeland for the Jews following World War II, Detective Meyer Landsman and his half-Tlinget partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addled chess prodigy.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 13 descriptions

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