The prose road is the road less travelled

October 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Posted in Award winners, Great for Book Clubs, Literary Fiction | Leave a comment

Howard Jacobson ‘The Finkler Question’ Bloomsbury August 2010

Howard Jacobson’s ‘The Finkler Question’ has won this year’s Man Booker Prize.  However reading it didn’t change my decision to have firmly backed Damon Galgut’s ‘In a Strange Room’ for the prize although the two books are very different types of novels. What is likeable about ‘The Finkler Question’ is that it is a very dark comedy, something which is so rare in fiction and it is also a remarkable piece of prose writing whose plot allows Jacobson to explore many interesting ideas.

The book hinges itself on the dynamics of Sam Finkler’s friendships with two other men, Julian Tresolve a former BBC worker whose life and career appear to have suffered from his disgruntled world views and values and his inability to commit to people and long term projects and also with Libor Secivk an elderly Jewish widower. Finkler himself is a philosopher and television producer and philosophical musings are resonant in Jacobson’s writing style.

One evening Tresolve is attacked and his pride and values are disturbed when he realises 1. his attacker is a woman and 2. when he believes she slurred the words ‘you Jew’ when robbing him of his valuables. The novel then begins to meditate on ideas of anti Semitism and the Israeli – Palestine conflict with his friend Libor taking over the narrative for a large part of the book musing what it has been like for him to be Jewish in the21st Century.

I must be honest and say I found this book to be quite difficult. The prose road in fiction for me is definitely the one less travelled in my reading. The novel’s concepts are very interesting but heavily ideological, Jacobson’s writing voice is strong but heavily philosophical and these elements compounded together to make the novel more challenging than enjoyable.

Haiuk; Ideology, heavy literary prose, study the story.

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