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historical narratives, there is still room for small-scale redemption,

as long as the “what if” scenario is activated and the momentum of

thinking otherwise is maintained. It is, this paper argues, Chabon’s

effort to articulate, within the inevitability of the historical given,

the “what if,” that constitutes the main interest of Chabon’s

counterfactual fiction.

In other words, Chabon’s

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union


different from Roth’s

The Plot Against America

, for the latter

channels its energies into imagining the probable persecution of

Jewish Americans once the ideologies of American exceptionalism

escalate and clash with American Jewish exceptionalism,



the former focuses on those Jews who have not acquired American

citizenship and, therefore, are “exceptional” simply because they

live in a state of exception, being “stateless” individuals unclaimed

by any nation-state. As such, Chabon’s

The Yiddish Policemen’s


poses a question that Roth’s

The Plot Against America


not raise: Is the nation-state indispensable for securing Jews security,

happiness, and freedom? What options are available to a people that

finds itself in a state of displacement, exiled both from home and the

body politic, as disposable life? Is it possible for a large social group

to survive this state of statelessness and then go beyond this status

of diasporic aporia, to simply “live on,”


without the trappings of


American exceptionalism, especially its contemporary variant that construes and

justifies U.S. imperialism as an indispensable measure to preserve world peace, is

not the same thing as Jewish exceptionalism, especially its Zionist version that

construes the Jews as the “chosen people” (

Alam, 2010: 9)

and justifies Palestine

as their sole and God-given birthright. Similarly, Jewish exceptionalism also bears

scanty resemblance to Jewish American exceptionalism, which simply means, as

aptly captured in the title of Seymour Martin Lipset’s classical essay from 1991, “A

Unique People in an Exceptional Country”; that is, America’s exceptional

hospitality towards Jews provides fertile ground for the exceptional talents and

intelligence of Jews to flower and thrive. For many Jewish Americans, so

Christopher Buck writes, “American exceptionalism is coefficient with America’s

ability to preserve and promote Jewish exceptionalism” (2015: 125).


I’m here referring to Derrida’s notion of “living on,” as neither an issue of an

individual’s survival nor as an articulation of an identity, but as an event, both lived