The Warsaw Anagrams, The Mighty Walzer, and Scenes from Village Life

Richard Zimler
Overlook Press, 2011

Howard Jacobson
Bloomsbury, 2011

Amos Oz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

walzerFrom Portugal, England, and Israel come three of the world’s most accomplished Jewish novelists, each reflecting a prototypical Jewish consciousness wildly different from each other’s. Zimler’s Warsaw Anagrams tells the story of Jews locked in the Warsaw ghetto. His previous book, the highly regarded Last Kabbalist of Lisbon also had a grim setting: the lachrymose reality of the Portuguese Inquisition. Yet Zimler is not a mourner of deaths, but a champion of hope and life. His novels are at once thrillers and deeply instructive. Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer is a coming-of-age story about a ping-pong playing Jew in 1950s Manchester, England, and it throbs with Diaspora Jewish humor. Jacobson previously won “the 2010 Man Booker Prize “(a great literary UK honor) for The Finkler Question, which was quite inferior to The Mighty Walzer. Amoz Oz is the much honored Israeli who is best known in the West for being a spokesperson for the fast-disappearing middle-of-the-road Israeli humanists and peace seekers, though he often ends up supporting Israeli wars and then cries as they (surprisingly?) bring death and destruction in their wake. Better to stick to his novels, which often capture the flavor of Israeli life. This one is an intriguing mystery set in a village being transformed by the (partial) yuppification of Israeli society.

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