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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 401

rather than celebrating an exceptional, preordained destiny of an

individual or a people, accommodates chance and contingency while

embracing life as it is, with its messiness, randomness, and

singularity. Contingency spells, in this case, freedom, difficult and

unpredictable as it is.

For Chabon, the detour into a counterfactual “then”


defeat and the US’s decision to offer a portion of Alaska as an interim

haven for Jews

does not end up putting either the US or the Jews

back at the center stage of international politics. Rather, Chabon

brings to the fore how this collective desire to be exceptional, and

the strong will of a people to master its fate, can end in the

perpetuation of violence and war, especially the kind of violence and

war wielded in the name of justice or in the preemption of injustice.

Roth ends

The Plot Against America

with Roosevelt’s being elected

as President and the entry of the US into World War II, as if the

course of History can be set right again once the US repents its

isolationist policy and does the right thing: acting to defend the

world against the evil of fascism. However, Chabon’s counterfactual

imagination seems uninterested in either celebrating the global

sovereignty of the US or defending the Zionist right of Return and

the Jewish vision of redemption, whether personal or communal.

Roth, despite his love affair with the “what-if,” and despite his

strident critique of the implicit racism of American society, ends up

reaffirming a fundamental American fantasy of exceptionalism.


Chabon’s use of the “what-if,” however, is not an attempt to

reinforce existing values and ideologies of the nation-state. Rather,

he opens up the past to challenge two statist fantasies, the Zionist

narrative of return, on the one hand, and the fantasy of American

exceptionalism on the other. Moreover, in Chabon’s novel, even

though everything is bound within the framework of grand


Paul K. Saint-Amour (2011) criticizes Roth, via citing Judith Butler, of creating in


The Plot Against America

“a paralegal universe that goes by the name of law,”

while privileging the supremacist role of the US in the making and defending of

world order.