Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

I recently finished reading a novel titled "J." That symbol is intended to be a crossed-out capital letter "J." Why? Because the main character's father always "put two fingers across his mouth, like a tramp sucking on a cigarette butt he'd found in a rubbish bin[, which] . . . he . . . did to stifle the letter j before it left his lips" (page 6).

Why stifle the letter "J"?

To avoid accidentally pronouncing the word "Jew," a word no one in the novel ever utters even though every character has a Jewish surname, a name apparently taken on as an act of atonement for something terrible that happened - if it did happen - to the Jews, but also to pretend that nothing happened, surely not, since everyone is now 'Jewish.'

Okay, that's enough of a hint at a plot spoiler, so I'll stop now except to say that I liked the novel enough to purchase a second one by Jacobson: The Finkler Question.

It won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for literature, so it comes with an imprimatur.

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