The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
(Man Booker Prize)

73%

16 Critic Reviews

There are few writers who exhibit the same unawed respect for language or such a relentless commitment to re-examining even the most seemingly unobjectionable of received wisdoms.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

"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.
 

About Howard Jacobson

See more books from this Author
Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), No More Mr. Nice Guy, Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), The Finkler Question (winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize), and, most recently, Zoo Time. Jacobson lives in London.
 
Published September 10, 2010 by Bloomsbury USA. 321 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Finkler Question
All: 16 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 4

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Oct 20 2010

“The Finkler Question” is all about anxiety...Even in its darkest moments “The Finkler Question” offers many examples of Finkler humor.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Edward Docx on Aug 14 2010

So then: all this Jewishness and not Jewishness is what the book asks the reader to weigh – eloquently, farcically, seriously, mockingly, perceptively, dumbly, brilliantly.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alex Clark on Aug 13 2010

The Finkler Question is a terrifying and ambitious novel, full of dangerous shallows and dark, deep water. It takes in the mysteries of male friendship, the relentlessness of grief and the lure of emotional parasitism.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Natalie Wood on Feb 11 2011

It is after all by turns hysterically funny, deeply sad, very wise, sometimes tedious — and gratuitously filthy.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Oct 16 2010

This is not mere prize-inspired hype...a striking novel and a subtle one, a group portrait of three men in later life...

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Oct 30 2010

...the book is not a religious investigation but a multi-voiced meditation on the cultural side of Jewishness.

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The Washington Post

Above average
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Oct 13 2010

There are certainly reasons to find this novel annoying. Chief among them, of course, is the tiresomeness of Julian's obsessive, if benevolent, racism...On the other hand -- cue Yiddish accent -- "The Finkler Question" is often awfully funny, even while it roars its witty rage...

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by James Walton on Jul 30 2010

No wonder that, as with most of Jacobson’s novels, you finish The Finkler Question feeling both faintly exhausted and richly entertained.

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The Telegraph

Above average
Reviewed by Gerald Jacobs on Jul 28 2010

...it is no surprise that Howard Jacobson – a writer able to recognise the humour in almost any situation and a man as expansive as most on the nature of Jewishness – should make it a theme of his latest novel.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by Michelle Quint on Dec 05 2010

This darkly absurdist meditation is classic Jacobson and highlights a major theme throughout the book: that Jewish reverence and prejudice are inextricably bound.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Anne Trubek on Oct 12 2010

Rare is a work of fiction that takes on the mostcontroversial issues facing Jews so directly—and with enough humor,intelligence, and insight—that it changes a reader’s mind or two. Be warned: TheFinkler Question will probably distress you on its way to disarmingyou.

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The New Yorker

Above average
Reviewed by James Wood on Nov 08 2010

“The Finkler Question” is an English Comic Novel, in this sense. It is always shouting, “I am funny.” Jacobson has a weakness for breaking into one-line paragraphs, so as to nudge the punch line on us.

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New Statesman

Below average
Reviewed by Leo Robson on Jul 30 2010

While the novel's slips - and typos - may be forgiven as the product of haste, its meticulous cynicism is more troubling...

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Publishing Perspective

Above average
Reviewed by Gwendolyn Dawson on Oct 15 2010

The Finkler Question presents its themes intelligently, sensitively, and humorously, but those themes will not appeal to every reader.

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The Jewish Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by Anthony Julius on Jul 28 2010

This is a novel of immense fluency. The writing is wonderfully mobile, and inventive, and Jacobson's signature is to be found in every sentence.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by James Walton on Oct 14 2010

There are few writers who exhibit the same unawed respect for language or such a relentless commitment to re-examining even the most seemingly unobjectionable of received wisdoms.

Read Full Review of The Finkler Question (Man Boo... | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for The Finkler Question
47%

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