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The Finkler Question [Paperback]

Howard Jacobson
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2010
'He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one'. 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 Sevick, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results. Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor's grand, central London apartment. It's a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you had less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends' losses. And it's that very evening, at exactly 11:30pm, as Treslove hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country as he walks home, that he is attacked. After this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change. "The Finkler Question" is a scorching story of exclusion and belonging, justice and love, ageing, wisdom and humanity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Export and UK open market ed edition (2 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809109
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809105
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), the highly acclaimed The Act of Love and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize 2010-winning The Finkler Question. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Product Description


`The opening chapters of this novel boast some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language' --Scotsman

`How is it possible to read Howard Jacobson and not lose oneself in admiration for the music of his language, the power of his characterisation and the penetration of his insight? ... The Finkler Question is further proof, if any was needed, of Jacobson's mastery of humour'
--The Times

Book Description

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This is a book about Anti-Semitism, especially London Jewish self-loathing Anti-Semistism.

If you are someone who could not possibly find this an interesting subject, I wouldn't even bother starting it.
As a Jewish Londoner, I do find the subject very interesting indeed...but maybe in a newspaper article. In a novel there has to be, surely, something more, like a decent story or touching, realistic characters.

I did really laugh at the beginning of the book; proper laugh-out-loud laughing. But I'm not sure if you are not Jewish and have had little contact with Jews, you'd see the joke. Lots of Yiddish expressions and in-jokes, which mean a lot to me as a middle-aged North london Jew, but to the gentile world? I'm not being condescending, but have you ever given thought to the difference between a "shlepper" and a "nebbishe"? Jacobson says a "shlepper" knows he's a "shlepper", but a "nebbishe" is unaware that he's a "nebbishe". To me, that is a very observant comment by the author and I have given it much thought since reading it. I think he's right. What do you think? Do you have any idea what he's talking about? Do you care?

Reading the first 50 pages or so I thought I was going to love this book and was looking forward to writng a positive review, but suddenly, and I don't know exactly when, I felt...ENOUGH ALREADY!
It's like going to a friend's 50th birthday party, having a great time dancing to all the old 70s disco classics and then, almost without warning, a wave of fatigue sweeps over you and you want to go home...right now!

Unfortunately, despite its very promising beginning, this novel rapidly turns into a very tiresome rant, but I'm not sure about what...and I couldn't wait to finish it. I can't even tell you what happened in the end.
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208 of 226 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Julian Treslove is a middle aged former BBC radio producer now working as a professional look alike but quite who he looks like varies. Although never married, he has fathered two sons, neither of whom he sees regularly. Dismissed from the BBC for being too morbid on his late night Radio 3 programme, he is given to depressing levels of self-analysis in his small flat that's not quite in Hampstead. What Treslove lacks is a sense of belonging and this, he notes his Jewish friends have in spades, particularly his old school friend and rival, the best-selling philosopher and TV personality, Sam Finkler. Treslove, by contrast, always feels on the outside of life.

When the book starts Treslove is again excluded as Finkler and their mutual friend and former teacher, Libor Sevcik, an elderly Jewish Czech, have both been widowed. Although the two Jewish friends have differing political views on Zionism, Treslove sees them united in their Jewishness and their sense of mutual loss. So much does Treslove want to be like his friend Finkler, a term he uses to describe all Jewish people, and for a range of other amusing reasons, when he is attacked on the way home from Libor's flat one night, he is convinced that it is an anti-Semitic attack and that Treslove is, in fact, a Finkler himself and pursues the task of answering `The Finkler Question': what does it mean to be Jewish in the 21st century?

It's not hard to see why this book has caught the attention of this year's Man Booker judges who have short-listed it for the prize. It touches on a number of compelling subjects including middle age insecurity, male competition and friendship, death, infidelity, multiculturalism and of course religious faith and the implications of this on nation states.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The definition of tautology? 1 Mar 2013
A lot of words on not a lot. Endless looping, spiralling questions on the meaning of being Jewish, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere. The subject matter is irrelevant, it could have been based on being an anarchist or an obsessive's just not that interesting unless you are experiencing the same issues. Ended up being one of those books that I decided to finish through gritted teeth because I could then critique it with validity. Thought it might pick up towards the end...but no. Left the book in a hotel room in Leon, Nicaragua and felt guilty at the thought of someone else picking it up anticipating a free (and entertaining) read. Sorry.
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110 of 123 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Finkler Question 25 Sep 2010
Three elderly men, lifelong friends, meet to look back on their success and failures, their loves and losses. Two of them are Jews, the third, Julian Treslove isn't, but would like to be. What follows is an exploration of Jewishness and identity and Treslove's attempt to make sense of his life.
This book has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and has been long-listed for the Booker. Superlatives abound. "Our greatest living writer" and other such. But I remain unconvinced. Although I accept that this is a serious and original work, the self-absorbed Treslove with his implausible identity crisis, did not engage me, and the much vaunted comedy of the book passed me by. An occasional wry smile was all I could muster. Jacobson can indeed write, and he writes well, but has some irritating stylistic quirks, such as over-use of rhetorical questions and verb less sentences that begin to grate after a while.
It is often said that if Jacobson were American, he would be rated up there with Bellow and Roth. Quite possibly, for there are many similarities, not least the obsession with all things Jewish, the misogyny (women are always described in terms of their breasts) and the lack of empathy with children (are we supposed to find it amusing that Treslove muddles up his two sons?). Above all, the self-absorption and endless wordy philosophising.
Not one for me, this novel, and I remain puzzled by the fulsome praise bestowed on it.
However - and it's quite a big however - it would make a very good book group choice as there is much to discuss here. Issues of identity, male insecurity, belonging, love and loss, and perhaps most importantly, Jewishness and what it means to be a Jew along with the thorny problems of Zionism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my sense of humour
I read it through, but it was not for me. Probably I missed much of the subtle undertones. Maybe one requires a Jewish connection.
Published 18 days ago by Mr. Nv Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars A tough question
A well written book,easy to read but difficult to understand, with a cast of characters who were not easy to like.
Published 1 month ago by Richard A. Brocklebank
3.0 out of 5 stars it goes on and on and on
I really enjoyed the start of this book. Howard Jacobson writes well and is very witty. However, it goes on and on and on about being Jewish - this was fine in the beginning, but... Read more
Published 1 month ago by RuthieQ
1.0 out of 5 stars Finkler = Jew
A lot of political agenda which gets old very quickly. Do not understand how this got a Booker along with such elegant books as the sense of an ending and bring up the bodies...
Published 1 month ago by Natalia
1.0 out of 5 stars There's very little to say
Utter, utter, utter dribblepiss, and that's being generous.

370 pages of badly written, smug, self-satisfied, incompetently unfunny witterings which make the author seem... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. T. Matthews
1.0 out of 5 stars Shame.
I had high hopes for this novel, what with the gushing praises plastered over the covers, and the first few chapters made for a promising start. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Georgia
5.0 out of 5 stars SIMPLY GLORIOUS!
I have been blessed in my reading choices over the last few weeks. All have been hugely rewarding, massively entertaining, and none of which have failed to make me think. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Greggorio!
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
A very interesting read if not a bit heavy. Read this and you'll certainly learn a lot about the Jewish faith. But well worth reading.
Published 2 months ago by Ivan Buick
5.0 out of 5 stars book
I was pleased with all aspects of this purchase: the product arrived promptly and was in excellent condition and met my expectations.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. S. J. Rolph
3.0 out of 5 stars fails to impress
The Finkler Question is the fourteenth book by Howard Jacobson, and winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
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