The Yiddish Policemen's Union

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9780061493607: The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Set in the Jewish homeland of … Alaska, this is a brilliantly original novel from Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’.

What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska – and not Israel – had become the homeland for the Jews after the Second World War? In Michael Chabon’s Yiddish-speaking ‘Alyeska’, Orthodox gangs in side-curls and knee breeches roam the streets of Sitka, where Detective Meyer Landsman discovers the corpse of a heroin-addled chess prodigy in the flophouse Meyer calls home. Marionette strings stretch back to the hands of charismatic Rebbe Gold, leader of a sect that seems to have drawn its mission statement from the Cosa Nostra. Meyer is determined to unsnarl the meaning behind the murder. Even if that means surrendering his badge and his dignity to the chief of Sitka’s homicide unit – his fearsome ex-wife Bina.

A novel of colossal ambition and heart, THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION interweaves a homage to the stylish menace of 1940s film noir with a bittersweet fable of identity, home and faith.

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Review:

‘His almost ecstatically smart and sassy new novel…Chabon is a spectacular writer…[and] is a language magician, turning everything into something else just for the delight of playing tricks with words…Chabon's ornate prose makes [Raymond] Chandler's fruity observations of the world look quite plain…He writes like a dream and has you laughing out loud, applauding the fun he has with language and the way he takes the task of a writer and runs delighted rings around it.’ Guardian

‘Michael Chabon’s brilliant new novel starts with a bang…It hums with humour. It buzzes with gags…Superb images also team in this long novel: the accumulated reading experience is one of admiration, close to awe, at the vigour of Chabon’s imagination…a hilarious, antic whirl of a novel.’ Sunday Times

'Chabon has written such a dazzling, individual, hyperconfident novel that it's tough to work out who wouldn't have fun reading it. If the thriller plot doesn't get you (and it's easily the equal of any detective story in the past five years) then the exuberant style and the sackfuls of great jokes will… Whichever way you cut it, “The Yiddish Policemen's Union” is pure narrative pleasure, high-class stuff from cover to cover. Only a shmendrik would pass it up.' Independent on Sunday

From the Publisher:

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Like Haruki Murakami in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End
of the World (1991), Chabon plays with the conventions of the Chandlerian
private-eye novel, but that's only one ingredient in an epic-scale
alternate-history saga of Jewish life since World War II. The premise draws
on an obscure historical fact: FDR once proposed that Alaska, not Israel,
become the homeland for Jews after the war. In Chabon's telling, that's
exactly what happened, except, inevitably, it hasn't gone as planned: the
U.S. government now has enacted a policy that will evict all Jews without
proper papers from Sitka, the center of Jewish Alaska. In the midst of this
nightmare, browbeaten police detective Meyer Landsman investigates the
murder of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who happens to be the disgraced
son of Sitka's most powerful rabbi. No one wants this case solved, from
Landsman's boss (his ex-wife, Bina) to the FBI, but our Yiddish Marlowe
keeps digging, uncovering apocalypse in the making. Chabon manipulates his
bulging plot masterfully, but what makes the novel soar is its humor and
humanity. Even without grasping all the Yiddish wordplay that seasons the
delectable prose, readers will fall headlong into the alternate universe of
Chabon's Sitka, where black humor is a kind of antifreeze necessary to
support life. And when Meyer, in the end, must "weigh the fates of the
Jews, of the Arabs, of the whole unblessed and homeless planet" against a
promise made to a grieving mother, it's clear that this parallel world
smells a lot like home. Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ran
the book-award table in 2000, and this one just may be its equal. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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