Sunday, 15 August 2010

Book of the Week - Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question

The Finkler Questionis the 11th novel by Howard Jacobson since Coming from Behind was published in 1983. It is the last of the Booker longlisted novels to be published this year.  Jacobson was born in Manchester, and taught as a University lecturer before becoming a full time author.  He is a comic novelist, with common themes running through all of his work which include Jewishness, literature and sex.  He has also worked as a television broadcaster.

The protagonists of Jacobson’s novels tend to be obsessed with what it means to be a Jew and questions of self identity, and the protagonist of The Finkler Questionis typical in this regard (although he is not himself a Jew).  Signed copies will be readily available in the near future and initial reviews are positive, so if you are a Booker collector now is the time to pick one up.  There is a simultaneous paperback and hardcover release, which means that the print run for the hardcover should not be very large.

“'He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one'. Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results. Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor's grand, central London apartment. It's a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you had less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends' losses. And it's that very evening, at exactly 11:30pm, as Treslove hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country as he walks home, that he is attacked. After this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change. "The Finkler Question" is a scorching story of exclusion and belonging, justice and love, ageing, wisdom and humanity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.”

No comments: