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The Finkler Question

2.76 of 5 stars 2.76  ·  rating details  ·  10,400 ratings  ·  1,740 reviews
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 Sevcik, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned wi ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by Bloomsbury
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According to the reviews on the back cover, The Finkler Question is hilarious. The front cover proclaims that it won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. A reviewer from the London Times asks "How is it possible to read Howard Jacobson and not lose oneself in admiration for the music of his language, the power of his characterization and the penetration of this insight?"

I dunno how exactly, but I did not lose myself in admiration of Jacobson while reading The Finkler Question.

Two friends of Julian Treslov
A.J. Howard
I don't like the idea that literature is written "for" or "not for" any people. Sure, you might be able to appreciate War and Peace better if you are a member of the 19th century Russian intelligentsia. But you're a fool if you let a smaller share of comparative appreciation get in your way. I mean, I can't let the fact that I'm middle class and white distract me from the fact that I enjoy listening to Public Enemy. I'm not comfortable with the idea that anything is beyond my empathy. What I'm s ...more
I've always been suspicious of the Booker Prize: a solid, stick-in-the-mud reward to literary doggedness and middlebrow worthiness that guarantees reading matter for the leafy home counties if nothing else. As a Nobel Prize lite it tends to award writers for what they mean rather than what they write.

Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question has a central question that falls perfectly in the Booker court: what is Jewishness? And what does it mean to be Jewish in England today? It's a question that
Rajat Ubhaykar
I had no clue what I was signing up for when I began reading this. The author began by making a very big deal about the pain of being a Jew in the modern world and ended the book with an impassioned plea to see Jews for what they really are, half right and half wronged, like the rest of us. I appreciate that unambiguously. Nobody should be singled out for persecution, I agree. What I don't appreciate is being bombarded with the words 'Jew', 'Ju', 'Julian' with freakish consistency on every page. ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Elaine rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I kept wanting to quit this unlikeable cramped book, but I didn't, because I kept waiting to see what the Booker Prize committee saw in it. I never did. I'm not sure if this book's unpleasantness says anything valid about British society or British Jewry, but I tend to think the solipsistic paranoia is all the author's. None of the characters are more than a sketched idea. For example, despite the all too minutely detailed fear of anti-Jewish violence in 21st century London(!?), and the constant ...more
I found this book laborious and slow moving. The parameters were too constrained to comfortably contain Julian, the main character's obsession with Jews and his wishful wondering if, by any quirk of fate, he could have something in his ancestry that would allow him to lay claim to being partly Jewish.

This tiresome obsession was sparked by an incident in which he was mugged by someone who, he believed, mistook him for a Jew. From then on Julian's thoughts are dominated by ways of being Jewish. H
Ainsley kerr
Really really really great. hard to put down. touching and funny. unexpectedly challenging. presents a difficult topic in a hitting and fearless fashion. empowered me with a nuanced perspective and vocabulary with which to challenge prevailing or simplistic notions of the Jewish identity. every time I put it down I had a strange yearning to call my grandmother, to remember and to be close.
Ian Mapp
Man Booker Prize Winner for 2010.

Look at the back of the book. Everyone (other writers, newspapers etc) say how wonderful this book is. How he is the funniest writer alive. Blah Blah Blah.

Maybe I am not the demographic for a Jewish crisis of existence book but it did not make me laugh once, nothing really happended and it was as dull as dish water.

Repition of themes, events, sayings, jokes, characteristics cannot be expected to carry a novel over 370 pages. And I imagine that the J E and W keys
Milky Cosmos
This is a great book. Don't let the philistines of this pitiful site ruin it for you. I picked it up because I hold Wodehouse in such esteem for his comedic novels (not that I was expecting Wodehouse here, he just introduced me to this category of writing). I had to read something more contemporary and since this won the booker prize I just bought it.

The first thing I must elucidate is that Finkler and the others seem to be more concerned with melancholic satire and the humour may not be too ama
K.D. Absolutely
I am still to read Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha but, to date, I've read more than half of the Man Booker winning novels. None of those made me laugh out loud as much as this book, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question. Twice at least not counting the grins and the smiles that came in between.

Funny and refreshing. Most of the half of those books that I've read were downright depressing including the last winner, Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending. So, this book by Jacobson that won in 2
This is perhaps the funniest book I've ever read; it's also seriously brilliant. This is a novel that deserved to win the Booker prize.

It's about anti-semitism in particular, but more generally about other-ness and self, about hatred, jealousy and love. The first 2/3 is laugh out loud funny, so much so that I attracted attention from my kids (what's so funny, Mom?), my h (who took the kobo from me to read a passage) and strangers who looked around to see the hilarity for themselves (in the girl
my 2nd booker prize winner (2010) in about as many days. winning has caused quite a bit a controversy and even before winning lots of ink spilled debating whether this was any good and antisemitism in UK, and self-anti-semitism (a la tony judt The Memory Chalet ) and zionoism/israeliism (a la grossman To the End of the Land ) and racism in general in uk especially (a la malkani Londonstani and barnes Arthur & George ) and passing and friendship and sex and polemics and much more. fun how fic ...more
Let there be nary a doubt, this book is first, foremost, and damn near exclusively about being Jewish. Jewish in England, Jewish in culture, Jewish in language, Jewish in world affairs, Jewish against Israel, Jewish for Israel, Jewish in humor, Jewish in intellect, Jewish in guilt, Jewish in pleasures, Jewish in the head, Jewish in the schlang, Jewish in food, Jewish in ceremony, Jewish as chosen, Jewish as persecuted, and Jewish in just about any other way you can imagine, stereotyped or otherw ...more
As my five stars say, "it was amazing"!!

Funny. Scathing. Humourous. Satiric. Trivial. Serious. 'Jocoserious'. Mad. Repetitive. Circular. Sensible. Nonsensical. Touching.

The Finkler Question has something to do with Jewishness, something to do with Jewish people, nothing to do with 'Issrrae', something to do with the image of Israel, and everything to do with human nature.

Go read it!!!
Anne Van
The 2010 Man Booker Prize winner and after 100 pages, I'm wondering if I really need to keep reading. It's been described as a comedy......thus far, nothing strikes me as funny, or even mildly amusing. The main character has an obsession (concerning he's not Jewish) with Jewishness, what it is, what it isn't. Fine, I'm interested, too. The problem seems to be the limited parameters that the character explores this, the limited characters of just three men (none likable), and no plot. Maybe it wi ...more
Julian Treslove is a 49 year old Gentile living in present day London whose life has been a series of disappointments: he has movie star good looks but can't seem to sustain a relationship with a woman for more than a few months; he was let go from his production job at the BBC for his overly morbid programs on Radio 3, a station known for its solemnity; and he has fathered two boys, who ridicule and despise him. Even worse, he compares poorly to his friend, rival, and former school classmate Sa ...more
Although it was a slow read in comparison to many of the books I've raced through over the last few months (it took me a whole two weeks to finish it - shock horror!), I started off really enjoying this. I found the characters interesting, amusing, and likeable despite themselves - Julian Treslove is in many ways a horrible person (astoundingly selfish and self-involved, to the point of not caring about or even noticing his own sons), yet he's also hilariously funny, and quite loveable simply be ...more
A novel that does not disguise that it wants to explore what it means to be a Jew today.

The narrator Treslove is a Gentile but feels that he is more Jewish than his two buddies, Finkler and Libor, taking on a Jewish girlfriend, wallowing in his guilt and shame, learning Yiddish and even willing to submit to circumcision. His two Jewish friends however feel that “a minor indiscretion, or two, does not matter,” and shrug off Treslove, saying that he can never become one of them – there is more to
I wish I could find a review that contained some insight into this book that I apparently missed, and that could justify it getting the Booker prize. The best description I can come up with on my own is "preposterous", as in asinine, ludicrous, and all the way to plain stupid. And that's just for the story, which seems to have started as an essay on "the Jewish question" and modern anti-semitism and apparently morphed into an absurd story (The Washington Post qualified it as "Chekhovian touch of ...more
Adrian White
Should a comic novel make me laugh? Is it funny to spend the first thirty-odd pages riffing on the word Jew? Can Jews write about anything other than being a Jew? If you’re going to write a novel about being a Jew, should it have at least some universal relevance ie. about being a human being? Should it be wrapped up in an interesting story? Should it have characters I give a toss about? Why does The Finkler Question remind me of Skippy Dies? Is it because they both take an inordinate length of ...more
Mind numbingly boring, self indulgent navel gazing, attempted intellectualisation of mid life crisis wankery.
Why did this book win a prize? Why didn't I get it? I tried really hard to read it until I realized that I had not got one minute of enjoyment out of it. So why read it? Why didn't I like it: there was a lack of story; the characters were unappealing and two-dimensional - do people like this really exist and if so, why write about them? The reviews said it was extremely funny, but I didn't laugh or smile once. Things that seemed like they might be there to be funny, I found depressing and over-o ...more
What is it like to be a Jew in modern day England in the question that this book covers. Told through the eyes, behavior, and words of three men it explores the concept of what makes a Jewish person a Jew. It was oftentimes quite funny although the topic one of seriousness. Julian, the Jewish wannabee, wanders around the story looking for his Jewishness. He is pretty much of a loser so one thinks that through his fervor for his Jewishness he will become a better person. He is convinced that he h ...more
11/11/10: Well, I'm glad I read it. Not always easy to read, though Jacobson writes beautifully. It just requires a lot of patience. It's a bit like reading a Henry James novel with a Jewish slant: nothing much happens (the plot can be summed up in a paragraph), and every moment, every thought, every social interchange is endlessly parsed and analyzed. Lots of interior thought processes. Which I find fascinating (I love Henry James) but also sometimes arduous.
Although the story is about the exp
The Finkler Question. Good in bits.
“You could divide the world into those who wanted to kill Jews and those who wanted to be Jews.” versus “We’re all anti-Semites. We have no choice. You. Me. Everyone.”
When I was young I read Exodus and all of the writing of Leon Uris. I read Anne Frank and Phillip Roth. Chaim Potok. Went to see Woody Allan movies. Read Elie Wiesel. Tried to get up to speed on things like the Holocaust. On gefilte fish, Shabbat and other things Jewish. A bit of a fascination re
Reading this book was a chore, and I doubt I would have finished it if not for my book club. For a while there I was wondering whether this was the Booker Committee's way of throwing Jews a bone because of some other Booker winner in the recent past which could be construed as anti-semitic. As I plodded through I began to recognize some of the book's merits, but at no point did it become an enjoyable reading experience for me.

First of all, this could probably be described as a "novel of ideas,"
Being utterly exhausted by the process of trudging through this book, the only thing I can add to the discussion concerns the country I come from.

Please bear this in mind: '...that porous Polish-Czech border area known as Suwalki' does not exist. Suwałki is a town in the northeastern part of Poland, often called 'the pole of cold'. Poland shares its southeastern border with The Czech Republic. Kind of opposite directions.

Perhaps this was meant to suggest the character's problems with memory but
When My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out, I fell head over heels in love.

I thought it was such an impressive ode to the way families work, or don’t work, through tradition, love, sadness, life and death.

The rumor on the street, at the time, was that Hollywood wanted it to be less, well, Greek. My Big Fat Irish Wedding or My Big Fat Italian Wedding or even My Big Fat Jewish Wedding. Something more mainstream and “get-able”. Greek was obscure.

Apparently, it wasn’t. The thing about the movie that was
“The Finkler Question” won the Booker Prize, and so many people have raved about it—most importantly, my sister, whose wonderful taste influences me—but I resisted this book and I’m not sure why. Is it because the book has a very British point of view and I have an American bias? Is it because I tend to be—dare I say it—pro-Palestinian and this book feels, at the very least, ambivalent?

Stepping aside from the central Jewish question for a moment, I think what bugs me is the feeling that this is
This is a book that rewards the patient and perseverant, which is a nice way of saying that it was not until the last quarter of the novel that I found any particular redeeming qualities.

Early on, I began to wonder to whom I might recommend the book. Would it be to someone who enjoys interesting characters with redeemable qualities? I don't think so. I felt the male characters ranged from unbearable (2 of 3) to nearly bearable (1). The single (living) female character left me generally perplexed
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Jewish readers: did you relate and like this book? 8 75 May 31, 2014 03:38PM  
Not impressed by Finkler 19 172 Nov 21, 2013 12:04AM  
Interview with Harold Jacobson at Toronto Public Library 1 28 Apr 07, 2011 08:00AM  
Howard Jacobson answering questions on Classic FM's Facebook Page this Sunday 1 14 Nov 25, 2010 08:47AM  
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Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England, and educated at Cambridge. His many novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Who’s Sorry Now? and Kalooki Nights (both longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), and, most recently, The Act of Love. Jacobson is also a respected critic and broadcaster, and writes a weekly column for the Independent. He lives in ...more
More about Howard Jacobson...

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“How do you go on knowing that you will never again - not ever, ever - see the person you have loved? How do you survive a single hour, a single minute, a single second of that knowledge? How do you hold yourself together?” 22 likes
“So many unhappy women out there. Such a sea of female misery.” 10 likes
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