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.
British comic author Jacobson unfolds his mordantly unsettling but hilarious ninth novel in retrospect. Cartoonist Max Glickman has built an uncertain career lampooning his own Judaism, while his relationships have been restricted to "women with diaereses or umlauts" (including ex-wives Chlo and Zo ). His introverted childhood friend, Manny Washinsky, grows up to commit a ghastly crime (also shiksa-related), but in their early adolescence, the two boys get together in an abandoned air raid shelter in 1950s Manchester to work on a comic-book history of Jewish suffering, Five Thousand Years of Bitterness, completed years later by Max. The two meet again after decades, when Manny is released from prison and Max is hired by a TV production company headed by a Nazi sympathizer, in one of many caustic ironies, to develop a film treatment based on Manny's life. Paradoxically, it leads Max to real revelations about their pasts and their identities. The factual horror of the Holocaust is always close to the emotional core of this twisted tour de force Max's fugue-like expletive-spewing first person reads like a British Zuckerman completely unbound but Jacobson (The Making of Henry) tempers the profane with meditations on what it means to be British and Jewish.