Yiddish Policemen

Michael Chabon’s new novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won’t be published until May 1, but the Forward has jumped the gun with an early review by Mark Oppenheimer.

Like Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, Chabon’s novel has a counterfactual premise: The Jews in Palestine lost the 1948 war, and to mitigate this tragic event, they were given a homeland — for 60 years — in Alaska. The book takes place in 2008, at the end of this lease, and it is also a murder mystery/detective novel of sorts, focusing on an alcoholic Jewish cop, Meyer Landsman.

For the most part, Oppenheimer raves about the book:

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union� is all things to one people. It’s a noir homage; it’s a work of literary realism; it’s an allegory; it’s a very funny satire. It manages to be thematically Jewish — concerned with questions of religious observance, historical rootlessness and internecine battles over authority — while deftly moving among genres that wouldn’t ordinarily lend themselves to what is, in the end, just another story about some poor, defeated Jews. “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union� is a funny, sad, tough, totally compelling book, but above all, it is the least artistically parochial novel I have read in a long time. It positively disdains categories and generic boundaries.

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