A scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity, from the brilliant Howard Jacobson.
Julian Treslove, a former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik. With both Libor and Sam recently widowed, and with Julian’s unsuccessful romantic record rendering him an honorary third, the three dine at Libor’s apartment. And that very evening, at exactly 11.30pm, everything changes.
‘The novel for me is analogous to the story of the blind men and the elephant. In that story, perception of what an elephant was depended on which part of the elephant’s body each man was holding. Factor in to that past history, egos, levels of tolerance for chronicling of incidents of antisemitism…”It’s bad but it’s not exactly Kristallnacht”…, and you get an idea of how difficult, as in the elephant analogy, comprehension of the whole is when perception and the associated conviction that comes with it is only partial and incomplete.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that thoughtful as Jacob’s book is on the question of Jewish identity, it’s also hilariously funny. This is something not unexpected from the man who, upon receiving the Booker, noted that he planned to spend the entirety of the 50,000 pounds to buy his wife a purse because “Have you checked out the prices of handbags these days?” A rich, complex foray into identity construction. Highly recommend.’