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.
Spanning the decades between World War II and the present day, acclaimed author Howard Jacobson seamlessly weaves together a breath-takingly complex narrative of love, tragedy, redemption, and above all, remarkable humor. Deeply empathetic and audaciously funny, Kalooki Nights is a luminous story torn violently between the hope of restoring and rebuilding Jewish life, and the painful burden of memory and loss.
Howard Jacobson is the author of eight previous novels, including The Mighty Walzer (winner of the 1999 Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing), and several works of nonfiction. He lives in London.
"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)