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The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel…
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The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (P.S.) (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Michael Chabon

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7,485326461 (3.81)469
Member:Fenoxielo
Title:The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Harper Perennial (2008), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:paperback, fiction, paperbackswap.com

Work details

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

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    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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    kaipakartik: Both are detective tales in alternate settings
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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)
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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 469 mentions

English (315)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (326)
Showing 1-5 of 315 (next | show all)
Imagine a world in which Jews who survived the Holocaust went to Sitka Alaska instead of Israel. That is the world of Michael Chabon’s award winning novel. However, the Jewish occupancy of Sitka is about to revert and millions of Jews have to find somewhere else to live. Detective Meyer Landsman is trying to ignore this deadline and drown his sorrows over his failed marriage in a slivovitz bottle.
This novel opens with a murder in the fleabag hotel where Landsman is living. He is asked by the night manager to take a look. He finds a youngish man shot in the back of the head, execution style. In the room are very few clues but there is a chess game in progress. Landsman was the son of a chess player but he grew to hate the game. He does recognize that there is something unusual about the game and he keeps thinking about it as he pursues his investigation. That investigation takes him to squalid dives and chess clubs and the Hasidic quarter and many other places. In fact, he is not supposed to be investigating this murder at all. His ex-wife, Bina, has just taken over as the chief of the Sitka Police and she has told him to concentrate on clearing his other open files before the reversion in two months. She has been told to quell the investigation by someone higher up the chain and she wants to comply so she might have the chance at keeping her job when the reversion happens.
There is an interesting group of characters described by Chabon. In addition to Landsman and his ex-wife, the other prominent policeman is Berko Shemets. Berko is half Tlingit Indian but his father was Landsman’s uncle and after his mother was killed Berko lived with the Landsmans. He is Landsman’s partner and his large size is a help to Meyer when he gets into trouble. There is a massively corpulent Hasidic rabbi, a diminutive Indian policeman, a Jewish surveyor who knows where all the secrets in Sitka are hidden and Berko’s father who used to be employed by the US government.
Everything is so richly detailed that I almost believed it was real. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 24, 2015 |
I have read and listened to this book four times in the last year, and there is still more for me to get, I'm sure. Peter Riegert's narration of the audiobook version is outstanding. These characters inhabit my head, and their weary but far from hopeless world view to me is very hopeful. The descriptions of the contents of Bina's bag are so vivid, and must echo the capacious quality of Chabon's heart.
Now, USA has this probably preposterous mini-series, Dig. It opens with some black hats gathered to certify the birth of a miraculous red heifer. Then we go to New Mexico where some evangelicals have been grooming a 13 year old boy for some as yet undisclosed destiny. Then off to Rome where archaeologists are digging up ancient artifacts under the Temple Mount. I hope Meyer Landsman shows up to straighten everyone out. Berko Shemets would have a field day with this crowd. ( )
  GreenieGirl | Mar 8, 2015 |
An interesting read, if for no other reason than to witness an unusual blend of genres. The story takes place in a city that would have existed if history had taken a different course, and then the author blends a mystery/ detective story into this alternate history and adds in some cultural study. Chabon writes engaging flawed but loveable characters and slings creative metaphors and similes throughout his prose. He's definitely a "writer's writer."

I was a little stuck on how to rate this book because there were some things I loved about it while some aspects felt a bit over the top at times. Overall, it's a great read - especially for people who love authors like Philip Roth or Dashiell Hammett. ( )
  Neftzger | Feb 28, 2015 |
The historical and cultural aspects were great, but in regards to the overall crime story itself? Eh. A bit far fetched and sloppy at times despite the procedural approach. ( )
  supermanboidy | Feb 15, 2015 |
Intruiguing story. Well developed characters and backstory. Enjoyable, if a bit hard to follow from all the sudden jumping around in time and random asides. ( )
  lavaturtle | Feb 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 315 (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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