Thursday, August 25, 2011

Howard Jacobson (August 25, 1942)

Howard Jacobson won the 2010 Booker Prize for The Finkler Question. I thought it was a very enjoyable and powerful book, exploring the way that English Jews (and by extension others) create self-hatred. The most extreme of these do so by joining the haters of Israel. The novel is a satire, and one of the most satirically enlightening characters is a non-Jew who wants to be a Jew, not for the religion but for the most superficial cultural aspects.

Various Jewish points of view are illustrated -- with several degrees of irony -- by various characters. However, the characters are fully realized, not just tokens of each intellectual or personality type. I especially remember one question, asked by an elderly character who had a firm secular Jewish identity and did not hate himself. He asked whether the anti-Israel Jew thought that the deaths of his family in the Holocaust were justified retroactively by the acts of Israelis that the self-hater was deploring.

I haven't read any of Jacobson's other books, but they are on my list.

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