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

by Michael Chabon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,452368560 (3.8)536
  1. 151
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (Pagemistress)
  2. 102
    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. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 20
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (kaipakartik)
    kaipakartik: Detective tales set in a fast deteriorating city
  7. 31
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (ljbwell)
    ljbwell: Alternate history based in the US where WWII has had a different outcome.
  8. 21
    Farthing by Jo Walton (BeckyJP)
  9. 10
    The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Noir mysteries exploring interesting hypothetical settings with ticking timers.
  10. 00
    Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Both deal with ethnic conflict and searching for identity.
  11. 00
    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.
  12. 01
    Countdown City by Ben H. Winters (sturlington)
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» See also 536 mentions

English (356)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (367)
Showing 1-5 of 356 (next | show all)
In Yiddish-speaking Alaska, Orthodox gangs in side-curls and knee breeches roam the streets of Sitka, where Detective Meyer Landsman discovers the corpse of a heroin-addled chess prodigy in the flophouse Meyer calls home. Marionette strings stretch back to the hands of charismatic Rebbe Gold, leader of a sect that seems to have drawn its mission statement from the Cosa Nostra. Meyer is determined to unsnarl the meaning behind the murder.

It took me about halfway through the book to really get interested in the story and start liking Detective Landsman, his humor and his loose cannon approach to investigating. There were a lot of characters with Yiddish names and a lot of Yiddish words used throughout which was a bit challenging. The plot was complex with many Jewish beliefs an important part to some of the Jewish characters and not important to others. The alternate history was different, had a noir feel and I enjoyed it. ( )
  gaylebutz | Sep 6, 2018 |
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is an alternate-history novel in which the Jewish people have been removed from Israel and relocated to a small portion of Alaska on a temporary lease. The story revolves around a police detective, Landsman, and his dogged determination in unraveling his latest murder case, despite the fact that it's no more important than any of the other unsolved murder cases in his file, he's officially been told to drop the case, and he keeps ending up in harm's way for annoying the wrong people. Of course, the case ends up being related to an international conspiracy. What's remarkable about the book is the atmosphere--the entire Jewish district seems like kind of a slum, complete with Rabbi leaders that are no better than mob bosses, which is added to the looming inevitability of the Americans taking over when the lease is up in several months. The characters themselves are mostly abrasive and irrational--I found it very difficult to identify or sympathize with them at all. While the murder case is resolved by the end, the reader never gets the sense that the overwhelming glumness of the world will ever cease. This one was a bit too depressing for me. ( )
  Phrim | Jun 14, 2018 |
Loved Kavalier and Clay. Never really got into this one. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I liked the typeface. ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |

Long ago, but not all that far away, I converted to Judaism. I eventually divorced by Jewish husband, and stopped practicing. But I have always been fond of the religion and the culture. For a lot of reasons, I miss being Jewish. I point this out, because it probably explains why I have a bit of a crush on Michael Chabon right now. I just finished reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union. The first page had me craving the roll and lilt of sung Hebrew, and the rich smells of a Jewish kitchen. Mr. Chabon's Jewish community is deliciously believable.

Mr. Chabon's writing is very rich, possibly a bit too rich in places. His phrasing is so full at times it can be hard to follow. The Jewish/Yiddish references hit you like an avalanche from the first paragraph, which I loved but may be a bit hard to follow, at least at first, for someone not familiar with Ashkenazic Jewish culture. That being said, this book drew me in and kept me attention to the end. The plot is good, the characters are excellent, and the mystery is believable, and very character driven. The end smacks just a little of deus ex machina, but there's been just enough of a whiff of the miraculous in the course of the novel, that its easy to accept.

I can easily understand why this was nominated for a Hugo this year. It's a good read, but brings up some very deep issues in the course of the wild ride of the plot, from what motivates people to what it means to have faith. Oddly enough, it never actually addresses where, if anywhere, miracles come from, or even if they exist. Things happen; it's up the the reader if it's coincidence, the hand of G-D, or something else entirely. In the book, some things just happen.

I highly recommend this book, and not just because I have a crush on the author :) ( )
  hopeevey | May 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 356 (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 (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carlson-Stanisic, LeahDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fischer, AndreaTranslatorsecondary 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 (3)

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-Tlingit partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy.

» see all 9 descriptions

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