Tag: Nebula

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Posted September 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael ChabonTitle: The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Chabon
Published: Harper Collins, 2007
Pages: 414
Genres: Crime, Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Many people seem to enjoy Michael Chabon’s books so I was pleased when I finally had a reason to read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In the dark Alaskan winter in the city of Sitka, Detective Meyer Landsman’s ex-wife has just become his boss and has handing him a huge stack of old cold cases that she wants him to solve. While Landsman life may feel like it’s already hit rock bottom, he’s only just discovering the mess that he’s in; a mess that will lead to a conspiracy.

This alternative version of Sitka, Alaska in this book is a Yiddish-speaking metropolis. That was the whole basis of this book; Michael Chabon’s idea came from a book he found called ‘Say It in Yiddish’ which had sayings that he would never have a chance to use because Yiddish isn’t the primary language of any country. While toying with the idea of a hypothetical Yiddish-speaking country this book was born. The idea was Israel lost the 1948 war; the Jews established a Jewish state in Alaska.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is an interesting blend of Michael Chabon’s heritage with a love of old mystery novels. Chabon has called it a homage to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and Isaac Babel. But while the noir stylings of this book are good this book also has a satirical nature about it, with a comic look at the Yiddish language and Jewish culture. Michael Chabon originally published an essay called Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts; which he discussed some thoughts he had of the travel book Say It in Yiddish, this essay was responded with a spiteful reaction from a Jewish community. This vitriolic response only spurred Chabon on and eventually he developed the idea of this book.

While there was some parts of the book that felt like it dragged on, over all the balance between the comical and the noir seemed to work. There are some great line coming from thing book; a highlight for me was “He feels like he suffers from tinnitus of the soul.” I was really surprised with just how well the dark and gritty mystery mixed with Chabon’s satirical style. I liked the whole concept of a Jewish noir novel; it was a refreshing take on a genre that I love. Well worth checking out this alternate history novel as it is one of the best I’ve read. I hear that the Coen Brothers are looking at adapting this book into a movie; if anyone could do this book justice as a movie, it would definitely be them. I’d be interested to see if this movie ever gets made and how it translates onto the screen.