He has the flight and knows the freedom only of a balloon on a string. This nut is out of its shell. The murder victim in this story is a junkie chess player who happens to have met his maker in the same miserable hotel where Landsman, divorced and depressed, has been hanging his battered hat.
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The dead man is registered as Emanuel Lasker, transparently an alias: the name, the detective knows, is that of a famous grand master of the early 20th century. This is, of course, a metaphor for many things, including the imminent demise of the District itself, due for the mandated reversion in a couple of months — and also including, as it turns out, what some Christians call the end times.
Chabon takes pains to supply an elegant, satisfying solution for his murder puzzle; he has too much respect for the genre not to. He has in recent years become a zealous proselytizer for a more genre-inflected and plot-friendly sort of literary fiction, a rabbi of the sect of Story. I think, though, that for him plot is, like chess, no more and no less than a beautiful game, something to be played as scrupulously and passionately as you can, but warily — with an eye to the danger that the game could start playing you.
When that happens, and you find yourself in that forced-to-move trap, the sensible thing is to knock the board over.
God’s Frozen People
Chabon has the chutzpah to actually conjure, like a stage illusionist pulling a rabbit from his hat, a Tzaddik Ha-Dor: the one man in each generation with the potential to be the Messiah. The first paragraph reads. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of , a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
As with the first paragraph, almost all of this page detective novel is quick and cheeky. Rather than empathize with Landsman, we pity his woeful self-deprecation. To aid and abet this manic energy, right up to the last the story continues begetting characters. Here is Chabon describing a reporter Landsman and his partner Shemets run into:.
And then, a mere four pages later, Mrs. The heavy steel door swings open with a groan, revealing Mrs.
Q&A | Michael Chabon, author, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”
Kalushiner, dressed to go to shul or a job at the bank, in a gray skirt suit and black pumps, with her hair done up in pink foam rollers. In her hand she carries a paper cup filled with a liquid that looks like coffee or maybe prune juice.
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Kalushiner chews tobacco. The cup is her constant if not sole companion.
And the quote even doubles back to comment on philosophers. Although obviously managed so that twists and revelations pop up at just the right moments, the whole thing feels organic. Jewish-sounding surnames, plus a smattering of low Yiddish expressions rendered into English, impart an air of cozy, chuckling intimacy. But message there is.
For the intimacy he creates is, of course, the intimacy of exile, of powerlessness. Again, nothing new here: protracted hostility, as I say, tends to tarnish the self-image of any group that it assaults, and Chabon, as a supplier of mass culture, also dutifully supplies an example of the syndrome. That he himself is not joking about it, however, becomes clear from his literary choices.
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No historian ever did his people a greater service, or merited greater respect from those who value the written word, than Emanuel Ringelblum, who between and performed prodigies of meticulous documentation in Jewish Warsaw under the Nazi boot. We have yearned so long for miracles.
How can we fail to see the bright hand of the miracle to which we have awakened? The writer of fiction was now free to reinvent, without challenge from the deceased, any aspect of the Yiddish-speaking world they had once inhabited. His own conscience did not prevent even Singer from toying with the memory of the vanished Jews; but neither did the sport ever dull his conscience. His literary heirs, babes in Yiddishland, are free of any such compunction.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Ruth R. Wisse, who taught Yiddish literature and Jewish history at McGill and Harvard Universities and has contributed to this magazine for more than 40 years years, last wrote for us on the Broadway play Indecent. Sign in to Commentary Email address. Remember me. Sign In. He orates: [The] end times are coming.
Michael Chabon carves out a Jewish state in Alaska.
And I for one very much look forward to seeing them come. But for that to happen, Jerusalem and the Holy Land have to belong to the Jews again.
ubsaystagochstam.tk Sadly, there is no way to do that without some bloodshed, unfortunately. Without a certain amount of destruction. But I am trying very hard.