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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 423


beyond any law

” (Bielik-Robson, 2010: 106)?

Even though Chabon is not a theorist, in writing

The Yiddish

Policemen’s Union

, he posits and attempts to answer these

Agambanian questions by giving us the inquisitive Landsman, who

in piecing together the story of a drug addict who is also a Messiah,

achieves his own small-scale redemption by letting go of his

attachment to the contrapuntal discourses of both American

exceptionalism and Jewish exceptionalism. Instead of seeking

assimilation into the US, thus ascribing to the supremacy rhetoric of

American exceptionalism or indulging in the redemptive narrative

concocted by Zionist nationalists, Landsman distances himself from

both grand ideologies and treats them as errors and mistakes. To

Landsman, the enigma of life cannot be translated into the language

of nationalism, nor can it be equated with the idiom of either

possessive or alienating individualism. It is not assimilation, nor the

founding of a Zionist state, that will procure for him the happiness

that he had in his own marriage and witnessed in the marriage of his

partner and half-cousin, Berko Shemets, who, as a mixed-blood Jew,

is, rather paradoxically, more Jewish than the “pure-blooded”

Landsman. Berko is seen by both Jews and Tlingit Indians with

suspicion, as “a Minotaur,” with “the world of Jews [being] his

labyrinth” (41). Precisely because he has to work hard to disentangle

and comprehend the Other’s claim on him, Berko makes conscious

efforts in living as a Jew who is nevertheless observant of Judaism

“in his own way for his own reasons” (41). By so doing, Berko

proves himself more a Jew than his father, given that he actualizes

the Jewish legacy by engaging in everyday life and valorizing the

“slow pacings of daily tasks” (75), to borrow a phrase from

Jacqueline Rose. This legacy to obey the divine commandments by

investing everyday life with divine significance is what the Zionists

have forgotten in their haste to embrace and militarize Zionism, and

it is this legacy to which Chabon is trying to give voice.

For Landsman, it takes the investigation of the death of a

Messiah to realize finally that the blessings of life do not reside in