1948 is a strange time to be a Jew. For Lonzman, the hero of this tale, it is the year the Jews in Israel are driven into the sea, and get a small beachside strip of Alaska as compensation. It is the year Lonzman’s father arrives in downtown Sitka where blue kerchiefed Jewesses sing Negro spirituals with jewish lyrics that paraphrase Lincoln and Marx. It is the year Lonzman’s father plays chess “like a man with a toothache, hemhorroids, gas, and a headache whose moves are like successive pieces of terrible news for the survivor Jews who play him. The survivors populate The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, with their chess, their holy books, their rabbis, their clans, their latkes, their typical and atypical habits, their policemen, their crimes.
But I’m curious, do you really feel you’re waiting for Messiah?
It’s Messiah, what else can you do but wait?
And Palestine? When Messiah comes all the jews go back there, to the Promised Land, fur hats and all?
I hear Messiah cut a deal with the beavers…
No more fur.
Landsman and Berkot confront Schmerle, the doorkeeper of the Verbove Rebbe, whose son, Mendele, has been found heroin-dead in a seedy hotel. Schmerle
“… looks east, looks west, he checks with the mandolin man on the roof…
“There is always a man on the roof with a semi-automatic mandolin.”