From Michael Chabon, Noir and Niftorim in the North Pulitzer Prize winner's 2007 novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union imagines that the fledgling Israel collapsed in 1948 — and part of Alaska was set aside as a temporary refuge for Jews. The inspiration: A real proposal to do just that.
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From Michael Chabon, Noir and Niftorim in the North

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From Michael Chabon, Noir and Niftorim in the North

From Michael Chabon, Noir and Niftorim in the North

From Michael Chabon, Noir and Niftorim in the North

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90761086/90769669" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Steven Henry/Getty Images hide caption

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Writer Michael Chabon won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in which he imagined the lives of people working on some of the earliest superhero comics. He rewrote another chapter of history in The Yiddish Policemen's Union— a novel Publishers Weekly described as a "murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller."

It's based on an eye-opening premise: What if the fledgling state of Israel had collapsed in 1948 — and in the wake of the Holocaust, part of Alaska had been set aside as a temporary refuge for Jews?

The novel is set 60 years later; Jewish rights to the district are running out, and it's about to revert to Alaskan control. Main character Meyer Landsman is a homicide detective, living in this temporary Jewish homeland and investigating a murder.

Chabon joins Terry Gross to read briefly from the book, and to talk about the inspiration for the novel — an asylum proposal (requires a PDF reader) that, in the real world, died in a Congressional committee.

This broadcast originally aired on May 3, 2007.

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