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Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker Prize Shortlisted Novel, J

Jacobson's latest novel is a profound, darkly comedic parable set in a future where collective memory has vanished following a historic catastrophe and one young couple's love affair could have shattering consequences for the human race.

Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker Prize Shortlisted Novel, J


Howard Jacobson
  • Imprint: Hogarth
  • On sale: October 14, 2014
  • Price: $25.00
  • Pages: 352
  • ISBN: 9780553419559
Contact: Lauren Kuhn

International Praise for J by Howard Jacobson 

“Remarkable. . . . Comparisons do not do full justice to Jacobson’s achievement in what may well come to be seen as the dystopian British novel of its times.” —John Burnside, The Guardian

“A snarling, effervescent, and ambitious philosophical work of    fiction fiction that poses unsettling questions about our sense of history and our self-satisfied orthodoxies. Jacobson’s triumph is to craft a novel that is poignant as well as troubling from the debris.” The Independent

J is a dystopia that invites comparison with George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.” Sunday Times

“Mystifying, serious, and blackly funny . . . J shows that, for a writer working at the peak of his powers, with the themes of his imagined future very much part of our present, laughter in the dark is the only kind.” Independent on Sunday

“[J]’s success owes much to the fine texture of its dystopia. . . . Jacobson has crafted an immersive, complex experience with care and guile.” The Observer

“Brilliant . . . J is a firework display of verbal invention, as entertaining as it is unsettling.” Jewish Chronicle
“Contemporary literature is overloaded with millenarian visions of destroyed landscapes and societies in flames, but Jacobson has produced one that feels frighteningly new by turning the focus within: the ruins here are the ruins of language, imagination, love itself.” The Telegraph

J is a remarkable achievement: an affecting, unsettling—and yes, darkly amusing—novel that offers a picture of the horror of a sanitized world whose dominant mode is elegiac, but where the possibility of elegy is everywhere collectively proscribed.” The National
“Jacobson . . . goes from strength to strength. This is a new departure: futuristic, dystopian, not, it seems, the world as we know it. But as we peer through the haze we see something take shape. It’s horrible. It’s monstrous. Read this for yourself and you’ll see what it is.” Evening Standard

“A provocative dystopian fantasy to stack next to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, has the kind of nightmarish twist that makes you want to turn back to page one immediately and read the whole thing again.” Sunday Express (UK)


Hailed by critics abroad as in company with George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Howard Jacobson’s J (Hogarth; On sale: October 14, 2014) was published in the UK to tremendous acclaim. Already the book has been shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize; called “subtle, topical, thought-provoking and painfully uncomfortable” by The Times; and deemed a “snarling, effervescent and ambitious philosophical work of fiction” by The Independent. Made all the more disturbing by the resurgence of violence in the Middle East and rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, Jacobson offers a chilling and provocative exploration of the power of denial and a poignant commentary on the importance of historical memory in this arresting new novel.

In a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. After an unspeakable atrocity known only as “What Happened, If It Happened,” collective memory has been all but erased. History books are hard to come by; diaries are hidden or destroyed; libraries put obstacles in the way of research; mournfulness, remembrance, and black clothes are forbidden. Men and women utter frequent catch-all apologies out of habit because “saying sorry,” as a series of daily lectures for the national radio explains, “releases us all from a recriminatory past into an unimpeachable future.” In a massive worldwide initiative called “Operation Ishmael,” all names have been changed so tracing lineage and placing blame for the devastation of the past is as good as impossible. Yet beneath a mandated culture of forgiveness and forgetting lurk the reverberations of catastrophe, violence, and tragedy made all the more terrifying by the obfuscation of their origins.

It is in this world of lost histories and unease that we find Kevern Cohen and Ailinn Solomons, who were introduced by a mysterious stranger at a church festival. Kevern kisses the bruises under Ailinn’s eyes on their first date, but doesn’t ask who has hurt her. Brutality has become commonplace. As the two fall in love and into ever-increasing danger, they wonder whether their meeting was fated or orchestrated, and it soon becomes clear their love affair could have shattering consequences for the human race. 

As much a heartbreaking romance as it is a deeply unsettling work of dystopian fiction, J is a truly striking look at what happens when we lose our determination to “Never forget.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Jacobson is the author of four works of nonfiction and several novels, including The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize; The Mighty Walzer, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing; and Who’s Sorry Now?, which was long-listed for the Booker Prize. He has a weekly column in the Independent and regularly reviews and writes forthe  Guardian, the Times, andthe Evening Standard. Jacobson has also done several specials for British television. He lives in London.

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