Garry's Reviews > The Finkler Question

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
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Apr 27, 12

Read from April 20 to 28, 2012

Me [ME]: Our guest for tonight is none other than the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, The Finkler Question. Good evening, Mr Question.

The Finkler Question [FQ]: Hello, and thanks for having me.

[ME]: Mr Question, might I start by saying that you are filled with some wonderful writing that befits your status as a major literary prize winner. For example, I particularly liked your description of a sunrise on page 350.

[FQ]: I'm sorry, you'll have to remind me...

[ME]: From her terrace the great London dawn bled slowly into sight, a thin line of red blood leaking out between the rooftops, appearing at the windows of the buildings it had infiltrated, one at a time, as though in a soundless military coup. On some mornings it was as though a sea of blood rose from the city floor. Higher up, the sky would be mauled with rough blooms of deep blues and burgundies like bruising. Pummelled into light, the hostage day began.

[FQ]: Oh yes, that is rather good, isn't it! I was particularly proud of this description though... Her lips too were scalloped like the hem of a lace undergarment, and seemed to move sideways rather than up and down.

[ME]: Ha! Delicious! So, can you tell the viewers what you are about?

[FQ]: Of course! Jew, Jews, Jewish, wringing of hands, shame shame shame.

[ME]: Yes, I did get that. You seem to be very fond of the word 'Jew'.

[FQ]: Absolutely. My motto is that if you say the word often enough then people will starting hating you and trying to silence you just so they can shut you up and not hear the word anymore. Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew.

[ME]: Well, that is rather annoying.

[FQ]: There you go, that's our schtick. You hate us now. Works every time.

[ME]: I don't hate you, I just grew a little tired of you. Even if you were filled with some exquisite writing.

[FQ]: Jew.

[ME]: Anyway, let's move on to the plot. Can you tell me about it?

[FQ]: Sure! There's a Jewish guy who wants to be non-Jewish and a non-Jewish guy who wants to be Jewish.

[ME]: Wow! Sounds like there must a lot of tension!

[FQ]: Not really. They just do stuff. Nothing too special. Just stuff. And the plot doesn't really go anywhere special. It's really just a vehicle for providing a few opportunities to philosophize about what it means to be Jewish.

[ME]: Well, I think you're doing yourself a bit of a disservice there. A bit self-deprecating maybe?

[FQ]: Self-deprecating? Self-deprecating? Of course I'm self-deprecating. I'm Jewish (Jew Jew Jew Jew Jew). It's what we do. It's our schtick.

[ME]: Alright then, let's talk about the elephant in the room now. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth when you won the Booker Prize, wasn't there?

[FQ]: Everyone gnashed their teeth. It's a Jewish thing. And wrung their hands. And blamed someone. It was like life imitating art. By the way, I'm Jewish.

[ME]: Well, you were almost universally scorned. You were like a little Israel being attacked by the rogue states of the literary world.

[FQ]: Are you mocking the beloved land of Canaan? Only the Jews are allowed to be ashamed of 'Isrrrrrrayel'. I talk about this in my book.

[ME]: I know. And I wasn't mocking. I actually think the scorn was a little unjustified.

[FQ]: Really? You surprise me. But you still think I'm the worst Booker Prize winner in history, don't you?

[ME]: Oh gosh no. That would definitely be The Sea. You're nowhere near in that league.

[FQ]: Well, according to the Goodreads viewers, I'm the worst of the worst. Worse than The Sea. Worse even than The Gathering.

[ME]: I thought The Gathering was OK. I gave it 3 stars.

[FQ]: That's crazy!

[ME]: Well, I can see how someone might think that. Just as I'm sure there are people who'd think I was crazy for giving you 4 stars.

[FQ]: Crazy is talking to yourself. Which is a Jewish thing, by the way. My characters do it a lot.

[ME]: ENOUGH WITH JEWISH THING. I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE!

[FQ]: You hate me now.

[ME]: I don't hate you. But I'm no longer going to give you 4 stars. I was going to because you are so beautifully written, but your single-minded obsession is too much! 3 stars. No more. And think yourself lucky that I'm not taking another star off you for lacking a plot.

[FQ]: I'd like the last word.

[ME]: You're a Booker Prize winner - of course you can have the last word.

[FQ]: Jew.
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Daniel Jon (new)

Daniel Jon Kershaw Last year's winner!


Garry I was looking at the message boards on the Booker Prize website.... there were some horrified people when this book won it....


message 3: by Daniel Jon (new)

Daniel Jon Kershaw How are you finding it so far? I think it is such a surprise to some people owing to it's Jewishness. A Jewish customer told me that she thought it was fantastic and spot on.


Garry Well, I can't really comment on the Jewishness. My step-grandfather was an orthodox Jew, but it hasn't filtered down to my generation. I wouldn't know a putz from a schmuck.

How am I finding it so far? Easily surpassing my expectations, which were admittedly very low based on all the commentary I'd read. I'm enjoying it a lot actually.


message 5: by Daniel Jon (new)

Daniel Jon Kershaw I will have to give it a whirl. We always have copies of it at work.

I've just started Disgrace. I've heard a lot of good things.


Garry Let us know whether you enjoy it!

I thought it was only just OK at the time, but I was still thinking about it a year later and felt compelled to change my rating from 3 to 5 stars.


message 7: by Daniel Jon (new)

Daniel Jon Kershaw I should finish it before the weekend and I will let you know.


message 8: by Daniel Jon (new)

Daniel Jon Kershaw Hahahahaha


message 9: by Martin (new)

Martin Lindsay Oy vey! Bravo, sir!


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