by Joshua Cohen
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 nonfiction, the campus novel with the lecture, The Netanyahus is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers.
Absorbing, delightful, hilarious, breathtaking and the best and
most relevant novel I’ve read in what feels like forever.
—Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times Book Review
Riffing freely on a true story, this brilliant and hilarious new
book takes a cozily familiar form, the campus novel, and turns it into a slyly
oblique fable about history, identity and the conflicted heart of Jewishness,
especially in America.
—John Powers, Fresh Air
With [The Netanyahus] Cohen proves himself not just
America’s most perceptive and imaginative Jewish novelist, but one of its best
novelists full stop.
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
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
—Leo Robson, The Guardian
With a blend of fiction and nonfiction, Joshua Cohen’s dazzlingly
smart campus comedy pursues lofty questions of history, religion and politics.
[The Netanyahus] is torrentially satisfying.
—Jonny Diamond, Lit Hub
Clever, funny, dark, deeply moving, full of references to everyone
from Nabokov and the Marx Brothers to Jabotinsky and the late Harold
Bloom, The Netanyahus is a joy to read.
—David Herman, The Jewish Chronicle
The Netanyahus. . . is a campus novel that is also a novel of ideas—a conjunction
less common than one might expect. Luckily it’s also very, very funny.
—Len Gutkin, The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Netanyahus, like Cohen’s previous novels, is driven by the momentum of its
prose. . . . This is a surprising novel, full of quirks and explosive moments.
—Christopher Shrimpton, The Spectator
No one writing in English today is more gifted than Joshua Cohen.
Every page of The Netanyahus—an historical account of a man left
out of history, a wickedly funny fable of the return of the repressed—crackles
with Cohen’s high style and joyride intelligence.
The Netanyahus is constructed with a brilliant comic grace that moves from
the sly to the exuberant. Some scenes are funny beyond belief. But even when
moments in the book are sharp or melancholy, they keep an undertone of witty
and ironic observation. The vision in this book is deeply original, making
clear what a superb writer Joshua Cohen is.
A domestic sitcom farce, a ferocious academic sendup. And also, in
contrast to an entire generation of fastidious timidities (Doctorow, Mailer, et
al.), a rousing lecture on Jewish history leading to Zionism. . . . The drive
to quarrel with a character is only one of the delights of Cohen’s shrewd,
exuberant, exhilarating and merry novel.
Cohen’s writing is vibrant even when ruminating on esoteric details
on Jewish identity theories. . . . This blistering portrait is great fun.
Cohen’s new book 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
—Jon Day, Financial Times
Cohen has performed a literary miracle of sorts, transforming the
shadowy, dour figure of Benzion Netanyahu into the protagonist of an
uproariously funny book. In its skewering of the small-mindedness of academic
culture, The Netanyahus conjures up the hilarity of David
Lodge, and in its piercing gaze and over-the-top, transgressive moves, it
evokes the late Philip Roth. . . . The reader is likely to explode in laughter.
—David N. Myers, Los Angeles Review of Books
Brilliant. . . [The Netanyahus] marries some madcap Rothian
scene-making with a greater and uncomfortable plumbing of what it means, all
these years later, to be Jewish in America.
—Ross Barkan, The Baffler
[In The Netanyahus] it is Bellow whose aura blinks out
from Cohen’s rich historical and philosophical digressions and the novel’s
mélange of acid comedy and earnest ruminations on race and campus politics.
—Joshua Leifer, Dissent Magazine
[The Netanyahus is] the most perfectly realized of
[Joshua Cohen’s] novels, it’s the most heartfelt one, the most cleverly
constructed. It’s also a sardonic comedy—laughter in the
—Jan Wilm, The Believer
The Netanyahus is brisk, brilliant, brazen; one reads it quickly, immersed in its
language; its dexterous descriptive prowess, its observations on then-modern
culture viewed with enlightened hindsight.
—Greg Cwik, Brooklyn Rail
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