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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

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7,409325472 (3.81)462
Member:bookishwendy
Title:The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:HarperCollins (2007), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, read, 08/07, 2007

Work details

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

  1. 141
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
  2. 82
    The City & The City by China Miéville (grizzly.anderson, kaipakartik)
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    kaipakartik: Both are detective tales in alternate settings
  3. 41
    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.
  4. 31
    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 Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (Pagemistress)
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    Farthing by Jo Walton (BeckyJP)
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    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (kaipakartik)
    kaipakartik: Detective tales set in a fast deteriorating city
  8. 00
    Jacob's Folly: A Novel by Rebecca Miller (sturlington)
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    Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II (Last Policeman Trilogy) by Ben H. Winters (sturlington)
  10. 22
    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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    Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Both deal with ethnic conflict and searching for identity.
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    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Torikton)
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» See also 462 mentions

English (314)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (325)
Showing 1-5 of 314 (next | show all)
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 |
Imagine a Jewish colony set up before the 2nd World War on an island off the coast of Alaska. Now imagine a hardboiled homicide investigator living in a trashy hotel on that island. This book is the story of such a man living in such a place.

If I have a complaint about the style, it is that the protagonist's voice is too strong for this story. The narrative is occasionally drowned out by the intensity of Meyer Landsman's opinions and feelings. The story meanders. It makes sense that it wanders, considering it is the story of a murder investigation by a world-weary alcoholic divorce whose entire nation is about to be disbanded.

I'm not generally interested in police procedurals, but this story held my interest. If the world it described wasn't a generally sad and dreary place, I would've liked it more. How sad is it? Even pets in the world of this story are deeply depressed and unwilling to move on from the intense emotional damage inflicted upon them. ( )
1 vote wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 314 (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, WillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillIllustratorsecondary 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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References to this work on external resources.

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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