On Christmas Eve 1999, all the Jews in the world die in a strange, millennial plague, with the exception of the firstborn males, who are soon adopted by a cabal of powerful people in the American government. By the following Passover, however, only one is still alive: Benjamin Israelien; a kindly, innocent, ignorant man-child. As he finds himself transformed into an international superstar, Jewishness becomes all the rage: matzo-ball soup is in every bowl, sidelocks are hip; and the only truly Jewish Jew left is increasingly stigmatized for not being religious. Since his very existence exposes the illegitimacy of the newly converted, Israelien becomes the object of a worldwide hunt...
Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant future of our own, "real" world, another last Jew--the last living Holocaust survivor--sits alone in a snowbound Manhattan, providing a final melancholy witness to his experiences in the form of the punch lines to half-remembered jokes.
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About the Author
[Cohen] reminds us what literature is: the self-conscious representation of the world using language.
The kind of ambitious, intelligent novel of ideas that will demand your full attention for 824 pages and repay you by rewiring your cerebral cortex in a fundamental way.
Cohen packs whole histories and destructions, maps and traditions, into single sentences. He employs lists, codes, and invented syntax with the sure hand of a visionary, his prowess and passion further emboldened by a boundless sense of scope.
The great lyrical sweeps of Cohen s writing must be applauded.
This anarchic energy recalls Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, but what really distinguishes Witz is it language and Cohen's vigorous assault on the sentence as a unit of simple communication....a brave and artful attempt to explore and explode the limits of the sentence.
Entertaining, adventurous and delightfully absurd.
[N]ow that so much Jewish literature has been written and rewritten again in English, now that we have so many authors and classics, it is all the more rare and inspiring that Cohen, scandalously overlooked in America, especially by the Jewish literary community, continues to delve deeper and further with each book into an inherited terrain while making of that holy ground these beautifully uncharted territories with their own maps and legends.