Howard Jacobson

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Howard Jacobson
Born (1942-08-25) 25 August 1942 (age 79)
Manchester, England
Occupation Novelist, columnist, broadcaster
Nationality British
Period 1983–present
Genre Biographical
Subject Jewishness, humour
Notable awards Man Booker Prize (2010)
Spouse First wife (m. 1964)
Rosalin Sadler (1978–1995)
Jenny De Yong (m. 2005)

Howard Jacobson (born 25 August 1942) is a British novelist and journalist. He is known for writing comic novels that often revolve around the dilemmas of British Jewish characters. He is a Man Booker Prize winner.


Jacobson was born in Manchester, Lancashire, brought up in Prestwich, and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield,[1] before going on to study English at Downing College, Cambridge under F. R. Leavis.[2] He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to Britain to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His later teaching posts included a period at Wolverhampton Polytechnic from 1974 to 1980.[3]

Although Jacobson has described himself as "a Jewish Jane Austen" (in response to being described as "the English Phillip Roth"),[4] he also states, "I'm not by any means conventionally Jewish. I don't go to shul. What I feel is that I have a Jewish mind, I have a Jewish intelligence. I feel linked to previous Jewish minds of the past. I don't know what kind of trouble this gets somebody into, a disputatious mind. What a Jew is has been made by the experience of 5,000 years, that's what shapes the Jewish sense of humour, that's what shaped Jewish pugnacity or tenaciousness." He maintains that "comedy is a very important part of what I do."[5]

Jacobson has been married three times.[6] He married his first wife, Barbara, in 1964, when he was 22, with whom he has one son Conrad.[7][8] He married his second wife, Rosalin Sadler, in 1978; they divorced in 1995. In 2005, Jacobson was married for the third time, to radio and TV documentary maker Jenny De Yong. He stated, "My last wife. I'm home, it's right".[9][10]

In August 2014, Jacobson was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[11]

Writing career

His time at Wolverhampton was to form the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about a failing polytechnic that plans to merge facilities with a local football club. The episode of teaching in a football stadium in the novel is, according to Jacobson in a 1985 BBC interview, the only portion of the novel based on a true incident. He also wrote a travel book in 1987, titled In the Land of Oz, which was researched during his time as a visiting academic in Sydney.

His fiction, particularly in the six novels he has published since 1998, is characterised chiefly by a discursive and humorous style. Recurring subjects in his work include male–female relations and the Jewish experience in Britain in the mid- to late-20th century. He has been compared to prominent Jewish-American novelists such as Philip Roth, in particular for his habit of creating doppelgängers of himself in his fiction.

His 1999 novel The Mighty Walzer, about a teenage table tennis champion, won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing.[12] It is set in the Manchester of the 1950s and Jacobson, himself a table tennis fan in his teenage years, admits that there is more than an element of autobiography in it.[5] His 2002 novel Who's Sorry Now? – the central character of which is a Jewish luggage baron of South London – and his 2006 novel Kalooki Nights were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Jacobson described Kalooki Nights as "the most Jewish novel that has ever been written by anybody, anywhere".[13] It won the 2007 JQ Wingate Prize.[14]

As well as writing fiction, he also contributes a weekly column for The Independent newspaper as an op-ed writer. In recent times, he has, on several occasions, attacked anti-Israel boycotts, and for this reason has been labelled a "liberal Zionist".[15]

In October 2010 Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question, which was the first comic novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils in 1986.[16] The book, published by Bloomsbury, explores what it means to be Jewish today and is also about "love, loss and male friendship".[17] Andrew Motion, the chair of the judges, said: "The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize."[17] His novel Zoo Time won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize (2013), Jacobson's second time winning the prize (the first in 1999 for The Mighty Walzer).[18]

In September 2014, Jacobson's novel J was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.[19]

Jacobson has argued that an education in science and technology is more conducive to terrorism than an education in the arts and social sciences. [1]


Jacobson has scripted television programmes including Channel 4's Howard Jacobson Takes on the Turner, in 2000, and The South Bank Show in 2002, which featured an edition entitled "Why the Novel Matters". An earlier profile went out in the series in 1999 and a television documentary entitled "My Son the Novelist" preceded it as part of the Arena series in 1985.[20] His two non-fiction books – Roots Schmoots: Journeys Among Jews (1993) and Seriously Funny: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime (1997) – were turned into television series.

Jacobson presented "Jesus The Jew", episode one of Christianity, A History, on the UK's Channel 4 in January 2009.[21] In 2010 Jacobson presented "Creation", the first part of the Channel 4 series The Bible: A History.[22]

On 3 November 2010, Jacobson appeared in an Intelligence Squared debate (stop bashing Christians, Britain is becoming an anti-Christian country) in favour of the motion.[23]

In February 2011 Jacobson appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. His musical choices included works by J. S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Louis Armstrong as well as the rare 1964 single "Look at Me" by the Whirlwinds. His favourite was "You’re a Sweetheart" by Al Bowlly with Lew Stone and His Band.[24]

He wrote and presented the Australian biographical series Brilliant Creatures (2014) on four famous expatriate iconoclasts.[25]



  • Coming From Behind, Chatto & Windus, 1983
  • Peeping Tom, Chatto & Windus, 1984
  • Redback, Bantam, 1986
  • The Very Model of a Man, Viking, 1992
  • No More Mister Nice Guy, Cape, 1998
  • The Mighty Walzer, Cape, 1999
  • Who's Sorry Now?, Cape, 2002
  • The Making of Henry, Cape, 2004
  • Kalooki Nights, Cape, 2006
  • The Act of Love, Cape, 2008
  • The Finkler Question, Bloomsbury, 2010 (Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize) ISBN 978-1-4088-0910-5
  • Zoo Time, Bloomsbury, 2012
  • J, Bloomsbury, 2014 (shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize)[19]
  • Shylock Is My Name: a novel, Hogarth Feb. 2016


  • Shakespeare's Magnanimity: Four Tragic Heroes, Their Friends and Families (co-author with Wilbur Sanders), Chatto & Windus, 1978
  • In the Land of Oz, Hamish Hamilton, 1987
  • Roots Schmoots: Journeys Among Jews, Viking, 1993
  • Seriously Funny: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime, Viking, 1997
  • Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It, Bloomsbury, 2011


  1. Anon (13 October 2010). "Howard Jacobson wins the Booker Prize – and thanks his Whitefield school". Manchester Evening News. MEN media. Retrieved 16 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Pearson, Allison (27 April 2003). "Howard Jacobson". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 12 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. International who's who of authors and writers, London: Europa Publications, 2003, p.271
  4. Brown, Mark (12 October 2010). "Howard Jacobson wins Booker prize 2010 for The Finkler Question". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 12 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Manus, Elizabeth. "Something Jewish: "Howard Jacobson Interview"". Retrieved 7 April 2009<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Find My Past". Retrieved 24 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. ""Howard Jacobson's world: Jewishness, magic and wine"". The Telegraph. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. ""Howard Jacobson's world: Jewishness, magic and wine"". The Telegraph. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Financial Review – News Store". 14 October 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Polly Vernon (7 September 2008). "Novelist Howard Jacobson on why jealousy is at the dark heart of male sexual passion | Life and style | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Clipboard Archive - The Everyman Launch". The P G Wodehouse Society (UK). Retrieved 20 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Wides, Cara. "Something Jewish: "Howard Jacobson Talking"". Retrieved 7 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Winner of the 2007 Wingate Literary Prize"
  15. White, Ben. "The Electronic Intifada, "Shoot and Cry: Liberal Zionism's Dilemma," (2007-09-20)". Retrieved 7 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. McKie, John (14 October 2010). "The light-hearted too often leave award ceremonies light-handed". Caledonian Mercury. Retrieved 16 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Howard Jacobson wins the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2010". Man Booker Prize. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Alison Flood (15 May 2013). "Howard Jacobson wins second Wodehouse prize for comic fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Man Booker Prize: Howard Jacobson makes shortlist". BBC News. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Arena: My Son the Novelist", BFI Film and TV Database
  21. "Behold! The Jewish Jesus" by Howrd Jacobson, The Guardian, 8 January 2009
  22. "The Bible: A History". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Christianity Is Imperfect – But Life Is Imperfect". Intelligence Squared. Archived from the original on 8 January 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Desert Island Discs: Howard Jacobson". BBC Online. BBC. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Brilliant Creatures: Germaine, Clive, Barry & Bob Official website at ABC

External links