Glittering Prizes

Congratulations Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson has won the Booker Prize for his fabulous book, The Finkler Question.

This is just terrific news, and a well deserved glory for one of this country’s very finest writers. I believe Howard Jacobson reads Harry’s Place from time to time, and so I’d like personally to offer my congratulations for a brilliant success.

You should, of course, now go and buy the book. There’s a review-cum-synopsis here, although it contains spoilers. Here’s a section:

Finkler is principle personality in an anti-Zionist group he has named ASHamed Jews, “which might or might not, depending on how others felt, be shortened now or in the future to ASH, the peculiar felicity of which, in the circumstances, he was sure it wasn’t necessary for him to point out.” Jacobson’s satirical account of the characters and exploits of ASHamed Jews is closest to life, and recalls the narcissistic silliness of the activists in Tariq Ali’s Redemption.

“The logic that made it impossible for those who had never been Zionists to call themselves ASHamed Zionists did not extend to Jews who had never been Jews. To be an ASHamed Jew did not require that you had been knowingly Jewish all your life. Indeed, one among them only found out he was Jewish at all in the course of making a television programme in which he was confronted on camera with who he really was. In the final frame of the film he was disclosed weeping before a memorial in Auschwitz to dead ancestors who until that moment he had never known he’d had. ‘It could explain where I get my comic genius from,’ he told an interviewer for a newspaper, though by then he had renegotiated his new allegiance. Born a Jew on Monday, he had signed up to be an ASHamed Jew by Wednesday and was seen chanting ‘We are all Hezbollah’ outside the Israeli Embassy on the following Saturday.”

ASHamed Jews marginalises itself with its inbuilt silliness and internecine fighting. Its threat to British Jewish life is a small part of a constellation of other antisemitic events, related and unrelated to Israel, which eat away at the morale of British Jews, most of which are counterparts of actual instances in British current affairs.


Also read David Hirsh at Engage