Literary Criticism and Significance

The Finkler Question continues Howard Jacobson’s interests in creating characters that loosely resemble him. Many of Jacobson’s characters are Jewish intellectuals and writers living in England and ruminating on the nature of being Jewish in contemporary Britain. Jacobson is a Cambridge-educated Jewish Englishman, a writer and broadcaster, clearly interested in the subject of Jewish identity. His works often feature extended discourse on topical subjects such as those presented in The Finkler Question. 

Asked about the use of a gentile character striving to become Jewish in The Finkler Question, Jacobson articulates one of his goals, saying he “wanted to show the warmth with which many English non-Jews view Jewishness, how much respectful curiosity and even affection there is for it in this country.” Additionally, Jacobson intended to explore the notions of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as it is experienced by different people, Jewish and gentile.

Howard Jacobson is known as an accomplished broadcaster as well as an award-winning writer, producing several documentaries for the BBC. He also contributes to The Independent, a London based publication. Jacobson’s eleventh novel, The Finkler Question, is his most critically successful to date, winning the Man Booker Prize. This award is given to “the best book of the year” in British fiction and is widely renowned as a significant literary award, on par with the Pulitzer Prize in the United States. Former winners include Yann Martel and Ian McEwan.

The Finkler Question was not expected to win the Man Booker Prize and its selection surprised many critics as the first comic novel to be selected for the award. The novel was well-received by critics and reviewers, receiving praise from the United States and the UK in many major publications from The Guardian to The New York Times.

Several of Jacobson’s other novels have been nominated for awards as well. The Mighty Walzer won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, a yearly prize for comic fiction. Kalooki Nights and Who’s Sorry Now were long-listed for the Man Booker Prize before The Finkler Question won the award in 2010. His novel, The Act of Love, was published in 2011 in the United States.