Thursday, January 20, 2011
Harold Jacobson's The Finkler Question is a funny book about anti-semitism, which seems impossible to do without being offensive, right? But Jacobson does it. The book won the 2010 Booker Prize, which is how I heard about it, and I usually love Booker Prize winners (e.g. Wolf Hall, White Teeth). It took me some time to get into The Finkler Question, but about 100 pages in, I became hooked, and thoroughly enjoyed Jacobson’s funny, cringe-worthy and slightly ridiculous book. I think the book provides insight and humor as to Jewish identity generally, but there are certain aspects of it that are particular to the UK (e.g., there appears to be a much larger and more vocal anti-Zionist community in London than there is in the US). The book is primarily told from the perspective of Julian Treslove, a non-Jew whose two closest friends, Libor and Sam Finkler, are Jewish. Julian is obsessed with Jews and the experience of being Jewish, and for much of the book he actually tries to become Jewish by claiming he was the victim of an anti-Jew hate crime and dating a Jewish woman. Treslove is a real cad - he has two children who he barely sees, sleeps with his friend’s wife, and is generally morose, self-obsessed and unreliable. Treslove, in his head, decides that he will call all Jews "Finklers" since his friend Sam Finkler, whom he has known since childhood, thoroughly represented to Treslove the embodiment of Jews . Thus, the book’s title is a play off of the phrase "The Jewish Question," coined in Western Europe to describe the issue of Jews in Europe (e.g., Nazi propaganda touted its concentration camps as the "the solution to the Jewish Question.").More about the book after the jump. I would not necessarily recommend the book to everyone since I think there are some inside jokes that some folks will not get. But anyone with particular interest in this issue would find it funny and thought provoking (Jew or non-Jew). For the recipe, I wanted to make something stereotypically Jewish, so I went with bagels, which I have never made at home before. This recipe is from Peter Reinhart, and while it was actually quite simple, it does require some non-typical ingredients.