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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,265319490 (3.81)449
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)

  1. 131
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
  2. 91
    The City & the City by China Miéville (grizzly.anderson, kaipakartik)
    grizzly.anderson: Both are police procedural mysteries set in slightly alternate worlds.
    kaipakartik: Both are detective tales in alternate settings
  3. 51
    The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (Pagemistress)
  4. 40
    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.
  5. 41
    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.
  6. 20
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (kaipakartik)
    kaipakartik: Detective tales set in a fast deteriorating city
  7. 21
    Farthing by Jo Walton (BeckyJP)
  8. 10
    The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (hairball)
    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.
  9. 10
    Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Both deal with ethnic conflict and searching for identity.
  10. 11
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also alternate history, also concerned with religion and culture, but very different in scope, subject matter and style.
  11. 22
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (ljbwell)
    ljbwell: Alternate history based in the US where WWII has had a different outcome.
  12. 26
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Torikton)
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» See also 449 mentions

English (308)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (319)
Showing 1-5 of 308 (next | show all)
It just tried way too hard. The alternate history was interesting but the hard-boiled detective plot just wasn't. It got all tangled up in itself and eventually just got into a big mess of conspiracies and then seemed to have no real way to end anything. I think this is bound for Bookcrossing.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
In this alternate history, Jews were relocated after WWII to Sitka, Alaska as a temporary safe haven. Now the time has come sixty years later that the U.S. government is essentially kicking them out to find their own way again. As their time winds down, Detective Meyer Landsman has to confront his own demons, his open cases and his ex-wife. But there is one murder case that could be the death of him if he's not careful.
...
The book also explored some facets of Jewish/Yiddish/Hebrew culture and that was quite fascinating. And Chabon's writing was once again so wonderful that I would read sentences and paragraphs over and over because they were just perfect.

http://webereading.com/2014/05/one-cop-two-cop.html ( )
  klpm | Jun 27, 2014 |
Classic Raymond Chandler, except set in Alaska, except Alaska is populated by millions of Jews. I had been meaning to read this ever since it came out and finally just got to it. Enjoyed it from beginning (detective walks into a hotel room with a dead body) to end (murder wrapped up and detective pursues justice). It was no where nearly as amazing as the Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay, but did as much as any book could do in creating an entire fictional universe and keeping you spellbound as both the mystery and the bigger world it creates reveal themselves. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is first a detective novel, playing off the traditional noir genre with sarcastic, mouthy homicide detective Meyer Landsman looking into the shooting of a former chess prodigy and heroine addict. The investigation leads him through the various seedy realms of Yiddish Sitka and it unfolds like a great chess game in which he finds himself "contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage." Like most hard broiled detectives, Landsman finds himself seeking his own salvation as he tries to uncover truths.

The book is also a fascinating alternate history, because Yiddish Sitka never existed. Chabon unfolds a fully realized, multi-layered imagining of what this island and its inhabitants would look like if it did, full of worldwide politics and local eccentricities. The details are rich and I could feel both the cold of Alaska and visualize the inner workings of this Jewish community.

On top of a fantastic, complicated plot and an fascinating litany of character, there's Chabon's writing style — poetic and rich and beautiful. When he describes a grimy hotel, you can feel the dirt getting underneath your fingernails. When he speaks of breathing in the cold, your teeth ache in sympathy. Chabon is just so, so good.

When the audio book ended and the last word was read, I sat back with a happy sigh and thought to myself, Well. That was just about perfect.

A side note on the audio book: Peter Riegert is fantastic. He has the perfect gravelly voice for a hard broiled detective novel and it adds to the mood of the book beautifully.

The audio book also includes an interview with Chabon following the book, in which he provides insight into how he came to write the story and how he approached the writing. I love that kind of thing. ( )
  andreablythe | Mar 14, 2014 |
Interesting alternate history. Left me unsatisfied, but overall not bad. ( )
  joyhclark | Mar 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 308 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:53 -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 14 descriptions

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