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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 421

embodies Jewish exceptionality, their chosen-ness, he lives a life

devoid of personal choice or value. Once he takes exception to the

exceptionalism he embodies, he becomes literally a wandering Jew,

homeless and bereft of hope.

The death of Mendel leaves a mystery for Landsman to solve.

As a detective, his job is to piece together the clues left behind along

with Mendel’s dead body. As a Jew living in a leased land with time

running out, he nonetheless chooses to “waste” his time solving the

mystery of Mendel’s murder, seeing in Mendel’s dead body a

“shared vulnerability” that belongs to people who are homeless,

dispossessed, and stateless. In investigating Mendel’s murder,

Landsman confronts that which defines Mendel as a Messiah who

has failed to materialize his prophesy; that is, a Messiah who keeps

his believers waiting so that, in compelling them to linger on in the

present, he compels them to keep on living, but differently.

IV. It Is Time for Homecoming

My homeland is in my hat. It’s in my

ex-wife’s tote bag.


The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

(2007: 368)

Landsman does not have faith in a Messiah, but he believes in

the power of his detective work to disclose the truth of Mendel’s

death and put his murderer behind bars. In investigating Mendel’s

murder, however, he finds that even though he is able to name the

murderer and uncover a multi-national terrorist conspiracy, it is

already too late for the disclosure of this knowledge to make a

difference: the bombing the Dome has already taken place, and, in

the aftermath, “people are rioting on television in Syria, Baghdad,

Egypt? In London? Burning cars. Setting fire to embassies . . . That’s

the kind of shit we have to look forward to now. Burning cars and

homicidal dancing” (406). If Chabon’s detective novel ends