22 June 2011

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Bloomsbury, 2010
The Finkler Question really is about what you might call the Finkler question.  It is an almost perfect title. Early on in the piece, Jacobson makes it clear that the word "Finkler" is a substitute for "Jew" or "Jewish".  And so the book is an exploration by a Jewish author of the various lines dividing Jews and non-Jews, whether those lines are clear or indistinct, and, perhaps more importantly, whether or not they can be crossed. And by whom. This, to me, is perhaps best summed up by a line in the book:

As always he wondered if he would ever get to the bottom of what Finklers were permitted to say about themselves that non-Finklers were not.

I did and continue to wonder whether Jacobson would have been able to write this book were he not himself Jewish.