The Finkler Question

by Howard Jacobson

Library Journal In tribute to his childhood pal, Samuel Finkler, Julian Treslove, a former BBC arts producer, has always privately thought of Jews as Finklers. Now in late middle age, Treslove and Finkler have remained friends and have also stayed close to their former history teacher and bon vivant, the nonagenarian Libor Sevick, another Jew. After a night out with his two old friends, Treslove is mugged by a female assailant who says something to him that sounds at first like, "Your jewels," but that he later interprets to be, "You Jew." This life-defining moment sparks an identity crisis, one in which Treslove, who has always been the envious outsider, comes to believe he might actually be Jewish. At the same time, Finkler, a widely regarded and well-known philosopher, joins the ranks of a group called "ASHamed," Jews who distance themselves from the Israeli cause in sympathy for the Palestinians. Just as an outbreak of violent anti-Semitic incidents causes Finkler to rethink his alliance with ASHamed, Treslove falls in love with Sevick's niece and becomes deeply immersed in Jewish studies. Verdict The novel's underlying question is: Can you choose to be Jewish or can you choose not to be? This Man Booker Prize nominee is as entertaining as it is provocative and will be essential reading for thoughtful readers on either side of the debate. Highly recommended.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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