Kalooki Nights: Book summary and reviews of Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson

Kalooki Nights

A Novel

By Howard Jacobson

Kalooki Nights
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2007,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

Max Glickman, a Jewish cartoonist whose seminal work is a comic history titled Five Thousand Years of Bitterness, recalls his childhood in a British suburb in the 1950s. Growing up, Max is surrounded by Jews, each with an entirely different and outspoken view on what it means to be Jewish. His mother, incessantly preoccupied with a card game called Kalooki, only begrudgingly puts the deck away on the High Holy Days. Max's father, a failed boxer prone to spontaneous nosebleeds, is a self-proclaimed atheist and communist, unable to accept the God who has betrayed him so unequivocally in recent years.

But it is through his friend and neighbor Manny Washinsky that Max begins to understand the indelible effects of the Holocaust and to explore the intrinsic and paradoxical questions of a postwar Jewish identity. Manny, obsessed with the Holocaust and haunted by the allure of its legacy, commits a crime of nightmare proportion against his family and his faith. Years later, after his friend's release from prison, Max is inexorably drawn to uncover the motive behind the catastrophic act -- the discovery of which leads to a startling revelation and a profound truth about religion and faith that exists where the sacred meets the profane.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The factual horror of the Holocaust is always close to the emotional core of this twisted tour de force...Jacobson tempers the profane with meditations on what it means to be British and Jewish. " - PW.

"In Kalooki Nights[Jacobson] has taken his skills to a new level and produced a novel of genius." - Michael Bywater, The Independent

"How is one to convey news of the arrival of a work of genius? This powerful, troubling, moving, profound novel is nothing less. What really steals one's breath away is its sharpness and depth of insight -- a sharpness that flays, and a depth almost too vertiginous to describe -- and the remorseless tragedy it unfolds, even as it makes one laugh aloud, sometimes in shock. It is the most intelligent and important novel [in years] . . . It is, to repeat and to repeat plainly, a work of genius." - A. C. Grayling, The Times (London).

"The raging, contentious, hilarious, holy, deicidal, heartbreaking Kalooki Nights ... is a novel that stands toe-to-toe with the greats . . . Jacobson can be funny and serious in the same breath. And yet there is no mistaking the reverence of his intention, or the rage that animates him at the heart of this more-than-a-novel . . . The reader -- entertained, exhausted and ennobled -- will finish this colossal work of art in remembrance and sorrow." - Christopher Cleave, The Daily Telegraph.(London)

"Howard Jacobson's tour de force . . . You don't have to be Jewish to love this book, just human." - Simon Schama, The Guardian (London and Manchester).

"Howard Jacobson . . . is incapable of writing a predictable sentence. [Kalooki Nights] is likely to be the funniest book published this year [with] prose sharper and brighter than any of his contemporaries."- Will Buckley, The Observer (London).

"Jacobson is quite simply a master of comic precision . . . That the things he is joking about are so dark and dangerous makes the jokes even better. And it dawns on you that the book isn't really just about being Jewish at all. It's about being human." - Nicholas Lezard, Evening Standard (London).

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Author Information

Howard Jacobson Author Biography

Photo: Jenny Jacobson

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights, the highly acclaimed The Act of Love, Zoo Time, and The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize. Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It is a compilation of his columns and In the Land of Oz is an account of his travels in Australia.

Howard Jacobson lives in London.

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