Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Yiddish Policemens Union

Welcome to the first book review of the blog!

I had heard about this book several times over the last year, and I picked it up for the 13+ hours in the air on the way to Cambodia. I ended up sleeping for most of the flight, so the book lasted for a few jet-lagged nights and unacompanied meals.

Granted, its a bit lighter than my usual reading material, but I enjoyed it. Its a bizzare but increadibly confident book - essentialy its a murder mistery. Simple enough, right? But no, this story takes place in a completely theoretical world, where WWII ended early, the Zionists lost the war of independence against the Arab states and the Jews of Europe were given a small strip of land in Alaska as a homeland, but only for a few decades. All this is very nice, but Chabon doesnt lay this out for you in the begning, and instead lets you pick it up as you go along.

Though the mystery itself is good reading, the interesting thing for me was comparing this theoretical land of the Jews to the real one that I lived in for so long. The most obvious difference is that after the crushing of Zionism, the jews speak Yiddish and have a purely religeous, not nationalist, calling for the promised land. The other important bit is that the Jews in Alaska are exclusively the european variety - none of the Morocan, Persian, Iraqi, Egyptian and Indian jews that make up the diversity of today's Israel.

No comments: