The Finkler Question // Jewish Museum

A novel which explores the idea of being a Jew, including what it means to be a Jew, what it implies to be known as a Jew, Anti-semitism, self-hatred among Jews, past and present.

“Everything has a cause, I know that. But he says he understands. What does understand mean here? Is he simply saying he can see why people are driven to do appalling and terrible things? Or is he saying something else? Is he saying that there is a justice in it, that my grandson’s blindness is justified by Gaza? Or that Gaza vindicates in advance whatever crimes are committed in its name? Can no wickedness now be done to any Jew of any age living anywhere that doesn’t have Gaza as its reasoning? This isn’t tracing an effect back to its cause, Libor, this is applauding the effect. I understand why people hate Jews today, he says, this man of culture. From which it must follow that I understand whatever actions they take in expression of their hatred. Dear God, will we now understand the Shoah as justified by German abhorrance of the Jews? Or worse, as retrospective justice for what the Jews were going to do in Gaza? Where does it end, this understanding?”

Underlying all the Jewish terms, connotations, humor and perspectives, some of which I did not fully comprehend, it feels that the author is also tackling the theme of innate desire within a person to identify, to belong, to seek the comfort and company of his “own kind”. The writing is introspective and thoughtful, tastefully combining humor and tragedy, melancholy and sarcasm. If anything, it was an eye-opening read for me, expanding my knowledge on a group of people I would otherwise have no significant contact with.

Coincidentally, I visited the Jewish Museum shortly after finishing this novel, and in present day news, history continues.

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