The Netanyahus

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 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 Incident in the History of a Very Famous Family' that finds Joshua Cohen at the height of his powers. more

FictionHistorical FictionJewishNovelsLiterary FictionAmericanIsraelAudiobookPoliticsLiterature

240 pages, Paperback
First published Fitzcarraldo Editions

3.81

Rating

13127

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1890

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Joshua Cohen

81 books 481 followers

Joshua Aaron Cohen (born September 6, 1980 in New Jersey) is an American novelist and writer of stories.

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Murray
907 reviews
645 followers
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Rollicking slapstick campus novel meets Benzion Netanyahu history lecture on the Iberian Jews meets repurposed Harold Bloom anecdote - I have no idea how this book works, but it genuinely does- you learn by it and are stressed out by it in equal measure. Cohen is a brilliant, funny writer, and that shines through. more


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MJ Nicholls
2081 reviews
4401 followers
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audiobook version 📕 The Netanyahus won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer citation for the novel described it as, “A mordant, linguistically deft historical novel about the ambiguities of the Jewish-American experience, presenting ideas and disputes as volatile as its tightly-wound plot. "So, here's the thing - the story really happened and it happened to Harold Bloom, famous literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, and his wife. It was they upon whom the Netanyahu family of five descended circa 1960 - mother and father and three boys named Yonatan, Benjamin (Bibi), and Iddo. And they were hell on wheels - the sort of people who are always right and indeed always righteous, who can do no wrong, and if something does go wrong, it's other people's fault and other people's kids' fault, always. more


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Orsodimondo
2250 reviews
2109 followers
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When Cohen published the pathologically unreadable 800-page monolith Witz in 2010 with Dalkey Archive, a flabbergasting slurry of manic logorrhoea intermittently brilliant and excruciating, there was no indication as to how Cohen might harness his astonishing stamina for further high-voltage literary wowness. The answer was Book of Numbers, a violently readable novel that shirked thickets of opaque wtf in favour of turbulent meta-antics, formal play and punnilingual wizardry, and established him as the heir apparent to David Foster Wallace. Continuing the downsizing present in his last novel Moving Kings, Cohen serves up a compellingly odd campus tale taken from an anecdotal story as relayed to the author by critic Harold Bloom. In the late 1950s, Hebrew scholar Ben-Zion Netanyahu (father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) visits the college of Corbindale to hold a polemical lecture on the Iberian Inquisition. Something of an affectionate tribute to Bloom, who is recast as the mild-mannered Ruben, outgunned by a chiding wife and a rebellious daughter, the novel serves up a stylish evocation of the period. more


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Elyse Walters
4010 reviews
11177 followers
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L’ESERCITO DEL FARAONESe fosse un film, all'inizio si leggerebbe: basato su una storia vera. Perché – e ancora devo capirne la ragione - il fatto che quella che normalmente è una storia di finzione – e proprio per questa ci cattura e avvince – si rafforza se la finzione è basata su una realtà esistita o esistente. Una storia vera. In ogni caso, la storia vera che sta dietro, o alla base, di questo romanzo, è che Harold Bloom – sì, proprio lui, quell’Harold Bloom alquanto celebre – qualche anno fa ha invitato Joshua Cohen a fargli visita perché voleva conoscerlo e complimentarsi per il suo precedente Il libro dei numeri, e fra una chiacchiera e l’altra gli ha raccontato di quando insegnava a Yale – università ben più prestigiosa della Corbin della finzione letteraria – e gli toccò fare da chaperon a quel Netanyahu che è probabilmente diventato celebre solo per avere dato i natali all’orrido Benjamin detto Bibi, più volte primo ministro d’Israele (è dal 1996 che flagella quel paese, nonostante le accuse di corruzione e frode e abuso d’ufficio, e nonostante un buon numero di nefaste scelte è il più longevo capo di Stato d’Israele). Bibi nel romanzo – e nella realtà – è il figlio numero due, all’epoca decenne, di quell’oscuro professore Netanyahu. more


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Paul Fulcher
1614 reviews
1446 followers
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Audiobook…. read by Joshua Cohen …. 8 hours and 31 minutes Other than feeling totally inferior in understanding the advance history, theology, politics, philosophy, the Rabbi’s, the Professors, Ruben Blum, (the Jewish historian), the exiled Israeli scholar, the academics, the sophisticated vocabulary, …. this book was often clever and hilarious…. …. more


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Lisa (NY)
1652 reviews
733 followers
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for FictionFinalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Joshua Cohen’s latest novel, The Nethanyahus is subtitled “An Account of A Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family. ”It is an odd - and to me uneasy - mixture of campus novel, non-fictional exposition and a rather odd attack on famous real-life family by creating a fictional version of them to ridicule. The author explains in the afterword it is inspired by a true story told to him by the critic Harold Bloom from his time at Cornell. In the novel, the narrator is Ruben Blum, a professor in the history of taxation at the fictitious University of Corbindale in upstate New York. more


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Alan
585 reviews
251 followers
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[4+] I like this bizarre novel about the Blum family in 1959 upstate New York who host the out-of-control Netanyahus for an evening. The novel is an engaging blend of family life, humor, slapstick drama, academic politics and medieval Jewish history. Even the audiobook, which contains sound effects like running water and slamming doors, is odd. I am glad I went into the book blind because the afterword is a delightful surprise. (My son was a student of Harold Bloom and I am fascinated by him. more


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Matthew Ted
832 reviews
820 followers
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“Eliminate the Diaspora or the Diaspora will eliminate you. ”So goes the opening quote of Joshua Cohen’s Pulitzer winner, The Netanyahus. Throughout the book, this tension remains. For me, that’s the strength of the novel - I’m in awe of how Cohen has managed to capture the weight of social expectation between minorities in an “expatriate” situation. Obviously, the American-Jewish and Israeli relations are not the same as those between, say, two Swedes abroad. more


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Barry Pierce
585 reviews
7939 followers
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107th book of 2023. 2nd reading. This is still one of the most wickedly smart novels I've read that's been published in the last few years, maybe decade. Every single intellectual I've thrown this at has returned to me, gleeful. The humour, which make no mistake, is on nearly every single page of the novel, operates at a sort of postmodern high - there's a rich satirical flare spliced with an almost slapstick happenings. more


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Ari Levine
213 reviews
186 followers
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this is so much fun . more


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Michael Finocchiaro
2095 reviews
5771 followers
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4. 5 stars, rounded slightly down. A superb blend of crude farce and political satire, laying bare the cultural divides on either side of the Jewish diaspora, between assimilated American Jews and battle-hardened Israelis. Cohen also painfully probes the deep psychic scars borne by professorial mediocrities and scholarly pedants who populate academia (not to mention their wives and families). Beyond Cohen's two hilarious parodies of tendentious recommendation letters and epic-fail job talks, this is much more than an academic roman à clef, and positions him as the heir to a long lineage of Jewish-American Men of Letters: Bellow, Malamud, Roth. more


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Flo
321 reviews
151 followers
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UPDATED. Pulitzer Winner for 2022. This was a really interesting read. It takes a while to realize that he really is talking about Netanyahu's father and the former Israeli president as a kid, apparently based on a true story. It is written in a subtle Philip Roth-like self-deprecating tone. more


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W.D. Clarke
289 reviews
291 followers
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Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2022 A satire about a historian who must interview Benzion Netanyahu for a position in his department. Why. Because he is Jewish too. Inspired by true events, this is more accessible and funny than it looks at first sight. I find it refreshing that I'm not sure what the message of the book is. more


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Blair
1836 reviews
5194 followers
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Update: Interview w author in Paris Review 2021-06-23:https://www. theparisreview. org/blog/2. A gem. I just loved every sentence. more


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Stacey B
353 reviews
140 followers
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I never feel properly equipped to talk about Cohen’s writing; his intelligence and wit are so powerful they kind of terrify me. This is simply a masterfully written novel. Involving, surprising and very funny. (May write more later. )I received an advance review copy of The Netanyahus from the publisher, Fitzcarraldo Editions. more


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Ulysse
312 reviews
143 followers
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No ratingRead this in June of 2021. I don't think I was the only one who was very surprised this book won the PP for "Fiction" . There was a past discussions thread on this book that I participated in so no reason for a repeat. The discussion is in the Jewish Book Club Group under Moderators Choice -Topic: August, 2021 The Natanyahus. This book is written about the "father" of a political man; not the one the title alludes to which made me think it was about the one who happens to reside in Israel. more


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Jan Rice
544 reviews
490 followers
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The Netanyahu Family Song We are the NetanyahusA family on the runWe got holes in both our shoesOur father is Ben-ZionWe will barge into your houseFrom top to toe in muckWe’ll look down your daughter’s blouseAnd treat you like a schmuckWe are the NetanyahusA family on the runWe got holes in both our shoesOur mother ain’t no funIf you have a nice TVIt’ll surely end up brokenIf you serve out scalding teaExpletives will be spokenWe are the NetanyahusA family on the runWe got holes in both our shoesA car we ain't got noneWe were raised by mom and popBen-Zion and sweet TzilaWho do love to yell nonstopLike the saxes in TequilaWe are the NetanyahusA family on the runWe got holes in both our shoesBut yours we’ll gladly tread onWe are the world’s most fearsome bratsAnd one day we’ll be kingsMeanwhile hold on to your hatsAnd lock away your things. (All together now. )We are the NetanyahusA family on the runWe got holes in both our shoesBut some day we’ll own Zion. more


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Ken
1272 reviews
1026 followers
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Thanks to all the recent readers of this review. I've subsequently completed my 2nd read of the book. I was in charge of a small-group discussion, and there's nothing like that to motivate a wrestling match between me and the book. The original review is immediately below, followed by the update. Rube and the YahoosI once made a lame joke in Torah study to the effect that it was a good thing Reuben got himself disqualified in favor of Judah; otherwise, instead of "the Jews" we would have been "the Rubes. more


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Tony
949 reviews
1666 followers
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All about the time the Netanyahus came to a formerly quiet little New York campus as guests of fellow Jew, Dr. Blum, whose wife Edith and daughter Judith and co-workers (assume typical names here) are in for the surprises of their lives. Oddly, for a 235-page book, the Netanyahus do not "land" until p. 135 or so. Up until then, a lot of angst and foreshadowing and humor. more


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Pedro
205 reviews
573 followers
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Oh, those Netanyahus. Their part in this spliced work of fiction and non-fiction is apparently the non-fiction. Benjamin, I'd guess the most famous one, has a bit part here, but the story kind of explains how he became who he became. The other part, the fiction part, is the narrator and his family who have the Netanyahus foisted on them. Except that narrator, Ruben Blum, is really based on Harold Bloom and his for-real encounter with those Netanyahus, so that part is kinda true too. more


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Dan
469 reviews
4 followers
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When I think that Joshua Cohen is just two years younger than me, I don’t know if I should applaud or cry. What has this guy been doing all of his life. Or, shall I ask instead, what have I been doing with mine. I think that, perhaps, novels like this can only be written by people (under sixty years old) who manage to read a hundred and fifty books (or more) a year and can still find the time to dissect, review and (intensively) discuss them (all). I mean, I’m happy for those people but, on the other hand, very disappointed with the way I’ve been managing my time. more


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Jonfaith
1939 reviews
1558 followers
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After finishing The Netanyahus: An account of a minor and ultimately even negligible episode in the history of a very famous family, I wondered if Joshua Cohen redefined the possibilities and boundaries of historical fiction. Is The Netanyahus an historical farce; an historical comedy; or more likely, a blazingly original and weird mixture of pure fiction and slapstick built upon an actual event recounted to the author by none other than Professor Harold Bloom. Regardless of its classification, The Netanyahus masterfully combines point-on re-creation of American Jewish culture in the 1950s and 1960s with wry observations on American Jewish interpretations of Jewish history. The Netanyahus tells the story of Ruvn (AKA Reuben) Blum, a professor of tax history in a small upstate New York college in which he’s the first Jew ever to step on campus. Professor Blum is assigned to shepherd Ben-Zion Netanyahu through his interview for a faculty post, since, of course, the only Jewish professor should accompany the only Jewish faculty applicant, although their fields don’t overlap in the least. more


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Barbara K.
472 reviews
101 followers
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But the past doesn’t have to be the future. That’s the point of something you aspire to. This novel is a departure for Mr. Cohen. No trace of Cohen's early need ( see Witz) to dominate, to dazzle with action of vocabulary and metaphoric hijinks—leaving all anxious influences struck dumb in his wake. more


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Albert
415 reviews
40 followers
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It is a rare thing for an author to be able to slide effortlessly between serious topics related to history, religion, statehood, assimilation and family politics - and riotous, borderline slapstick, hilarity. Yes, this book features the family of the Benjamin Netanyahu, frequent prime minister of Israel. His father, mostly, but Bibi is there in a supporting role. The story is told by the fictional Reuben Blum, a stand-in for critic Harold Bloom, who shared an anecdote with Joshua Cohen that became the seed for this book. Blum is a young professor at a college in a rural portion of western New York State. more


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Neil
1007 reviews
697 followers
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There are several ways to look at this novel; I will take the simple approach. Ruben Blum is the sole Jewish professor at a small college in upper state New York. He has a very bright and manipulative daughter who is currently applying to colleges. Ruben’s wife, Edith, is limited by their location in what jobs or career she can pursue and is frustrated as a result. The story takes place in late 1959 to early 1960. more


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Diamond Cowboy
484 reviews
68 followers
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The Netanyahus is a very clever book. It is clever in the words it uses (I had to look up several words as I read). But it is also clever in the conflicts it brings about, including in the reader’s head. Our narrator is Ruben Blum. In an afterword, Cohen explains that the book is based on an anecdote told to him by Harold Bloom, the literary critic who died in 2019 and who called Cohen’s Book of Numbers one of the four best books by a Jewish-American novelist (I have no idea what the other 3 books are. more


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nastya
401 reviews
357 followers
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I enjoyed this book very much. It tells of a Jewish American historian's struggles with antisemitism and his discoveries in history. I highly recommend this book. more


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Grace
2919 reviews
162 followers
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The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, this minor episode being based on the anecdote of Harold Bloom about meeting the Netanyahu family in the 50s. In short: Ruben Blum, a historian who happens to be jewish, not a historian of Jews, gets a task to interview Ben-zion Netanyahu for the position in his small provincial college being the only other Jew there, the famous family arrives and mayhem ensues. This is a novel about identity, Jewish identity to be precise. Old world jews vs new world jews; American assimilating jews vs nationalists of Israel; Jews from the Bloodlands vs prosperous jews from Western Europe. And all this is told with wit and sometimes mockery. more


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Jay
183 reviews
57 followers
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PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: 2022===Generally speaking, especially with the wins over the past ~2 decades, I can understand why a book was chosen for the Pulitzer Prize even if I didn't personally connect with or love the content, but this one truly has me scratching my head. Apparently this was supposed to be funny and "fun", which frankly has me concerned for anybody who could read this book and be amused--it was a slog and honestly pretty bleak. Dry, depressing, and I just didn't "get" the very weird blending of fiction and fact. Which I guess is supposed to be viewed as innovative, but I just thought it was kind of weird to just take somebody else's story and decide to tell it yourself but with a bunch of shit made up. Bizarre, and not in a good way. more


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I was all over this. Cohen has been on my radar for a while, and, for many months, I’ve had a copy of The Netanyahus sitting, waiting patiently, somewhere down in the thick of the big pile of “bought-on-a-whim-and-soon-to-be-read” books that I keep in my flat. However, having purchased it ages ago, I hadn’t touched it since. I had it in my head that it was going to be an intensely dense book — a sort of Thomas Pynchon for the new era — and, even though I was intrigued, my trepidation outweighed my curiosity. This misconception was mostly instigated by the tone of the reviews I‘d read of Cohen’s previous and much longer novel, Book of Numbers, which had been brought to my attention, last summer, by Harold Bloom’s The Bright Book of Life. more


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