Long though it is, this quotation sums up just about everything about Roth’s magnificent novel of 1976: its strange title, its grand theme, its somewhat simplistic view of history, and its humor that jumps cheerfully into offensive self-mockery. A long section of the novel takes place in Israel shortly after the Yom Kippur War, when the stereotypes were indeed being turned on their heads, and conversely significant criticism of the state was beginning to be heard from the West. But Roth’s principal subject is not the engaged Jews who assert their selfhood either through Zionism or religion, but the countless secular Jews like himself, living securely in a distant country; how do they establish their identity, especially in mid-life when the question of “Is this really all I am?” typically arises.
January 7, 2011
В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: 20th-Century, Identity, Jewishness, Time Period Fiction В· Posted in: Contemporary, Facing History, Israel, Literary, Man Booker International Prize, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), y Award Winning Author
Nevertheless, Howard Jacobson does talk about it, together with gentile anti-Semitism and that philo-Semitism that may well be anti-Semitism in disguise. This brilliant novel, at once comedic and penetrating, is nothing less than a study of Jewish identity, at least as reflected by a group of middle-class Jews in contemporary London. This is satire, but equal-opportunity satire; there is nobody who may not be offended by it at one point or another, yet nobody who will not recognize the wisdom of Jacobson’s insights, as loving and humane as they are witty.