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J: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Howard Jacobson

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Finalist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

Praise for J:

“A masterwork of imagination flavored with grief.”
—Jenni Laidman, Chicago Tribune

“A fascinating cautionary tale about the paradoxical dangers of assimilation and tranquility.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“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, Guardian

“J is a snarling, effervescent, and ambitious philosophical work of 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.” —Independent (UK)

J delivers a gut punch of a plot twist that rests somewhere between hope and devastation. This is a major novel, a rare work that makes readers think as much as feel.” —Shelf Awareness (starred)

“Fine, you can call him the British Philip Roth, but J makes me wonder when the hell we’re going to have someone with the staggering talent that we can call an American Howard Jacobson.” —Shalom Auslander, author of Hope: A Tragedy

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

“Jacobson’s fusion of village comedy and dystopian sci-fi is a tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly

“A pleasure, as reading Jacobson always is.” —Kirkus (starred)

“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 (UK)

“Brilliant...J is a firework display of verbal invention, as entertaining as it is unsettling.” —Jewish Chronicle

“Readers...will find plenty to think and talk about in Jacobson’s remarkable, disturbing book.” —Booklist (starred)

“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.” —National (UK)

“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.” —Telegraph (UK)

“[J]’s success owes much to the fine texture of its dystopia... As a conspiracy yarn examining the manipulation of collective memory, J has legs, and it’s well worth its place on this year’s Man Booker longlist... Jacobson has crafted an immersive, complex experience with care and guile.” —Observer (UK)

“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 (UK)

J is a rare combination of moral vision and subtle emotional intelligence...superb.” —Lancet (UK)

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

Praise for Howard Jacobson:

“A real giant, a great, great writer.”
–Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated
“Mr. Jacobson doesn’t just summon [Philip] Roth; he summons Roth at Roth’s best.”
–Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Jacobson’s capacity to explore the minutiae of the human condition while attending to the metaphysics of human existence is without contemporary peer.”
–Daily Beast


A life-changing novel by one of Britain's greatest novelists, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2010

Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1189 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 340 Seiten
  • Verlag: Vintage Digital (14. August 2014)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0224101978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224101974
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #71.522 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.4 von 5 Sternen  34 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen We are asked to reflect on reasons for anti-Semitism and acknowledge hatred against the Other as part of human existence. 30. Oktober 2014
Von Bookreporter - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In a 2013 speech entitled “When Will the Jews be Forgiven the Holocaust?” Man Booker Prize-winning British novelist and critic Howard Jacobson (THE FINKLER QUESTION) offered at least a partial explanation for why virulent hatred of the Jewish people continues to exist and, ominously, is growing in parts of Europe. “Those we harm, we blame,” he observed, “mobilizing dislike and even hatred in order to justify, after the event, the harm we did. From which it must follow that those we harm the most --- we blame the most.” Jacobson’s chilling question and its paradoxical answer lie at the heart of J, his new Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel --- part dystopian allegory, part love story --- that deploys the tools of fiction to illumine that troubling phenomenon without abandoning the novelist’s paramount obligation to tell an emotionally honest story.

Although the time and place in which it is set are never made explicit, J seems to take place a couple of generations hence in a country whose geography and culture don’t feel all that far removed from present-day Great Britain. The society has endured some form of mass extermination or exile that’s referred to only as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED (Jacobson’s typography), reflecting a desire to bury all memory of the event. Equally ambiguous is the identity of the “aloof, cold-blooded” victims, whose “loyalty is solely to each other,” though the following description could hardly be more suggestive:

“Imaginatively, the story of their annihilation engrosses them; let them enjoy a period of peace and they conjure war, let them enjoy a period of regard and they conjure hate. They dream of their decimation as hungry men dream of banquets. What their heated brains cannot conceive, their inhuman behavior invites. ‘Kill us, kill us. Prove us right.”

Into this unsettling milieu, Jacobson introduces his protagonists: Ailinn Solomons, a beautiful 25-year-old who fashions paper flowers and her lover, Kevern “Coco” Cohen, a woodturner who specializes in producing lovespoons, and at age 40 already is experiencing “early-onset middle age.” They inhabit the small seaside village of Port Reuben, and like all citizens in a world where most people wear black and the predominant emotional color appears to be gray, they bear Jewish surnames. That’s the result of a program called Operation Ishmael, “that great beneficent name change to which the people ultimately gave their whole-hearted consent,” to ensure that “tracing lineage is not only as good as impossible, it is unnecessary.”

It gradually becomes clear that Ailinn and Kevern may have a larger destiny (one they sense dimly, at best) than the one inherent in their domestic relationship. Kevern’s movements are shadowed by a fellow teacher and artist named Edward Everett Phineas Zermansky and Detective Inspector Gutkind, who suspects Kevern of a double murder. Ailinn’s older friend, Esme Nussbaum, urges her back into the relationship with Kevern when it falters briefly early in the novel.

Unlike Orwell’s 1984, Jacobson only hints at the more authoritarian elements of his imagined world. People are “only prevented from leaving the country (or indeed from entering it) for their own good,” while reading groups are licensed, “allowed access to books not otherwise available (not banned, just not available).” In one of the novel’s most disturbing scenes, Kevern and Ailinn conclude a trip to the capital city (bitterly nicknamed “the Necropolis” by Kevern’s father), with a visit to a neighborhood their taxi driver describes as the one “where the Cohens lived.” When Kevern exclaims, “The Cohens! I’m a Cohen,” the driver replies, “No, I mean real Cohens,” and the erasure of what once was a vibrant community becomes frighteningly tangible. “They have the air of living lives on someone else’s grave,” Kevern says of the neighborhood’s inhabitants, his elegiac comment aptly summing up the novel’s predominant mood.

Despite that somber tone, J isn’t lacking occasional flashes of Jacobson’s well-known wit. Describing Kevern’s lovemaking technique, Ailinn says, “It’s as though you’re on a tourist visa. Just popping in to take a look around.” The novel’s concluding section opens with an excerpt from satirist Allan Sherman’s song “Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max,” which features a litany of Jewish surnames sung to the tune of an Irish ditty.

To the question he posed in his B’nai B’rith address, Jacobson proposed the haunting answer, “Never.” With no little amount of grace and considerable subtlety, he asks us to reflect, not only on the reasons for the persistence of anti-Semitism (and by extension other forms of ethnic animus), but also to acknowledge the harsh truth that hatred of the Other seems an inescapable fact of human existence, one that will persist until the day we’re no longer inhabiting this planet.

Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Nebulous 22. August 2014
Von Helen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a difficult novel to enjoy. Firstly, it deals with a dystopian society where the reasons for that dystopia are incredibly uncomfortable. Of course, good dystopian novels SHOULD make you uncomfortable as a reader so perhaps it's reading it against the backdrop of current world events that struck such a disharmonious chord within me. Secondly, it takes a very long time for the reasons behind the society created in J to become clear. There are very good reasons for Jacobson writing in this manner and the cloudy WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED events that have made things the way they are. However, even though it's intentional to be fumbling around through the chapters and trying to work out what's happening, it made the story, the characters and the writing all far too nebulous. I spent far more time attempting to decipher the clues than appreciating the novel. I should probably go back and re-read it now I know the truth but, in reality, I know I won't.
15 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen IS ANOTHER BOOKER PRIZE IN THE OFFING? 14. August 2014
Von the GreatReads! - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
Author Howard Jacobson won the Booker Prize in 2010 for The Finkler Question. His latest work which is simply titled J is on the longlist for this year's prize. I was doubtful of his chances of scoring a double but after reading J, I'm not too sure anymore.

J by Howard Jacobson is a speculative fiction novel with a subtle post-apocalyptic setting with the romance between the two main protagonists Ailinn Solomons and Kevern Cohen both gentle and terrifying. It is a strange society where the letter `J' is rarely used, though not prohibited by law. The situation is such that Kevern is unable to utter a word containing the letter without making a gesture - covering his lips with his fingers.

Howard Jacobson's characters are well-conceived, though at times they border on the unthinkable. The plot has surprises, and this makes for an effortless reading which is one major plus-point of the book. The wordplay of the author is quite brilliant, occasionally superb. The culture and norms of the society inhabited by the characters are a bit weird. Perceptive and engaging, J by Howard Jacobson is an impressive novel with its delightful lightheartedness in the midst of a grim setting.
21 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen thought provoking and disquieting 11. September 2014
Von Audrey Schoeman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Confession time: I wasn't a fan of The Finkler Question. It is probably a book I should revisit, but when it came out I found it deeply depressing as opposed to the comic work it was hailed as. So initially the feelings of upset which J stirred in me led me to suspect that I just wasn't a Howard Jacobson fan. Different strokes for different folks, right? Maybe not. As I got further into the book, the thought entered my head that perhaps this dystopian novel was deliberately unsettling. That it was making me pull back (while drawing me in) on purpose. After all, surely the best dystopian fiction will always strike a little too close to home? I don't think I will ever love Jacobson's style: I won't be waiting eagerly for his next offering. But this was a thought provoking, superbly crafted read, fan or not.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen 5 stars for ideas and style, 3 for plot and storytelling 6. Dezember 2014
Von TChris - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
J is accurately marketed as a "philosophical work of fiction." It is, unfortunately, strong on philosophy and weak on fiction. To his credit, Howard Jacobson raises important questions and avoids glib answers. He just doesn't do a very good job of storytelling.

The novel's beginning sets a promising scene. J takes place in a future of shared conventional thinking. Spontaneity and unpredictability are scorned. Jazz, wit, and other forms of improvisation have fallen out of favor. Art is a "primordial celebration of the natural world." It is meant to provoke feelings of tranquility and harmony, not anxiety or despair.

Prevailing sentiment in Jacobson's future is that we must forget the past. Conversations about the seminal event of the relatively recent past begin with "what happened, if it happened." The "twin itches" of recollection and penance are no longer scratched. People apologize without reference to any offense for which an apology might be due because random apologies eradicate and anesthetize guilt. Walls and monuments that commemorate war and suffering are gone, the "recriminatory past" replaced with an "unimpeachable future." Access to books (and therefore ideas) is restricted. Even "hoarding heirlooms" is an offense, although one the authorities will overlook if it is not carried to excess.

It is against this wonderfully detailed background that a plot fails to emerge. Instead, Jacobson gives the reader a jumble of loosely connected storylines. It is as if Jacobson put all of his effort into creating the story's background and failed to find a story that would fit within it.

One plot thread involves a romance between Kevern "Coco" Cohen, the child of parents who hid their past from him while they are still alive, and his lover Ailinn, who thinks that memories are best forgotten since memories are mostly bad. Kevern slowly uncovers his past as the story slowly moves forward. The path he travels is full of dull digressions.

Another thread is something like a murder mystery as a detective investigates a series of deaths. That story goes nowhere. Another involves a woman who had an affair with her teacher who seems to have been added to the story only because someone needed to provide an explanation of what happened, if it happened. Then there's an art historian who exists to reinforce the book's central conceit while adding little of substance to the novel.

While I was unimpressed with Jacobson's story (or failure to tell a story), I found the novel worth reading for its thoughtful exploration of ideas. One set of characters, for example, wars over the dichotomy of "never forget" and "don't live in the past." Having conquered oppression, a character suggests, "there is no need for all the morbid remembering and re-remembering. I don't say we should forget, I say we have been given the chance to progress and we should take it." Through its characters, the novel allows competing philosophies to spar: acknowledging that the past is past should not bring "automatic absolution" for past atrocities versus the sense that people of the present should not be made to bear the burden of guilt for things done by earlier generations. Jacobson also has some insightful things to say about cultural identity as a "shapely, long-ingested, cultural antagonism, in which everything, from who we worship to what we eat, is accounted for and made clear. We are who we are because we are not them."

Jacobson is a clever prose stylist -- sometimes too clever, he conveys the sense of a writer being clever for the sake of being clever -- but the cleverness kept me reading even when I had doubts about the content. There are some lengthy dead spots, including a woman in a coma whose search for words might have made a strong creative writing essay but added little to Jacobson's effort. The characters are haphazard constructs of beautiful prose; I wish Jacobson had made them worthy of the language he expended on them. For ideas and style, I would give J 5 stars; for plot and storytelling, 3 would be a stretch. My weak 4 stars is a compromise verdict.
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