The Finkler Question – the question no-one was really asking


I know I ought to have known better and that I’ve already said in my profile that I usually prefer Booker losers to winners, but I recently read the 2010 winner, Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question”.

I can understand why the book won. It is well written and a great study in the inner lives of a couple of middle-aged men and their elderly former teacher. It is just that the whole thing was so introspective and, well, just unreal for anyone who isn’t wrestling with the concept of Jewish identity in early C21st London as seen from the perspective of a middle-aged man who is projecting his own insecurities onto a Jewish identity that he doesn’t have as a non-Jewish man.

I enjoyed the longlisted “1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell rather more and am about to embark on Peter Carey’s “Parrot and Olivier in America” hoping to confirm that I prefer the losers.

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5 thoughts on “The Finkler Question – the question no-one was really asking

  1. Lately I have vowed to read all Booker Prize-winning novels…I don’t really know why, other than it’s been a good source for good reads in the past, but lately, the winners I’ve read have not been so great (for me). The Booker winners I’m referring to are Disgrace by JM Coetzee and The Gathering by Anne Enright. They were both well-written, but I just didn’t like them.

    I’m not giving up on my ‘goal,’ though. So far there are more Booker winners I enjoyed reading than winners I didn’t like.

    • My comment is slightly tongue in cheek as, of course, there are plenty of excellent and enjoyable Booker winners. I enjoyed Disgrace but not enough to feel tempted to read more Coetzee and a lot less than Michael Frayn’s “Headlong”, which was shortlisted with it in 1999. I found Wolf Hall to be rather dreary, particularly as it missed out the events later in Thomas Cromwell’s life. White Tiger was also, in my opinion, rather over-rated (but I can understand that Philip Hensher’s “The Northern Clemency” was perhaps a bit too parochial as an account of middle class life in Sheffield in the 70s and 80s).

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