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The Netanyahus

Joshua Cohen

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Fitzcarraldo Editions
5 May 2021
ISBN: 9781913097608
240 pages

From the publisher

Corbin College, not-quite-upstate New York, winter 1959-1960: Ruben Blum, a Jewish historian—but not an historian of the Jews—is co-opted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. When Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview, family unexpectedly in tow, Blum plays the reluctant host, to guests who proceed to lay waste to his American complacencies. Mixing fiction with non-fiction, the campus novel with the lecture, The Netanyahus is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics—“An Account of A Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family” that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers.

‘Joshua Cohen is such an accomplished writer it’s surprising he isn’t a better known one. ... Cohen’s new book – his sixth – continues the turn to allegorical realism [and] is among his best: a fastidious and very funny book that is one of the most purely pleasurable works of fiction I’ve read in ages.’
— Jon Day, Financial Times

The Netanyahus is Cohen’s sixth novel, his most conventional and his best to date. It is a tour de force: compact, laugh-out-loud funny, the best new novel I’ve read this year [and] probably the funniest novel ever written about contending historiographies. ... [I]t’s the Netanyahus themselves that are unexpected. Arriving late in the book — having been pre-announced by brilliantly ventriloquised letters of scholarly recommendation — they pile out of the car, tramp snow all over the house and puncture the sensibilities of their hosts. Within four pages of their arrival, the reader has seen the future prime minister of Israel lean over and (maliciously) flick his younger brother’s willy. ... When events take a late, serious turn, Cohen never deviates from the comic mode, deliberately leaving the reader questioning whether they should be finding this funny. Cohen’s lesson, in this determinedly comic novel, is that history happens as farce and tragedy simultaneously.’
— John Phipps, The Times 

‘[Cohen] clearly is a genius ... The Netanyahus [is] a comic historical fantasia – a dizzying range of bookish learning and worldly knowhow is given rich, resourceful expression ... With its tight time frame, loopy narrator, portrait of Jewish-American life against a semi-rural backdrop, and moments of cruel academic satire, The Netanyahus reads like an attempt, as delightful as it sounds, to cross-breed Roth’s The Ghost Writer and Nabokov’s Pale Fire. ... This is a brisk, impudent, utterly immersive novel.’
— Leo Robson, Guardian