• Birth— August 25, 1942
• Where—Manchester, England, UK
• Education—Cambridge University
• Awards—Man Booker Prize
• Currently—lives in London, England
Howard Jacobson is a British author and journalist, best known for his comic novels that often revolve around the dilemmas of British Jewish characters. Born in Manchester, Jacobson was brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, before going on to study English at Downing College, Cambridge under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to England to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His later teaching posts included a stint at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the 1970s.
Although Jacobson has described himself as "a Jewish Jane Austen" (in response to being described as "the English Phillip Roth"), he also states, "I'm not by any means conventionally Jewish. I don't go to shul. What I feel is that I have a Jewish mind, I have a Jewish intelligence. I feel linked to previous Jewish minds of the past. I don't know what kind of trouble this gets somebody into, a disputatious mind. What a Jew is has been made by the experience of 5,000 years, that's what shapes the Jewish sense of humour, that's what shaped Jewish pugnacity or tenaciousness." He maintains that "comedy is a very important part of what I do."
His time at Wolverhampton was to form the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about a failing polytechnic that plans to merge facilities with a local football club. The episode of teaching in a football stadium in the novel is, according to Jacobson in a 1985 BBC interview, the only portion of the novel based on a true incident. He also wrote a travel book in 1987, titled In the Land of Oz, which was researched during his time as a visiting academic in Sydney.
His fiction, particularly in the novels he has published since 1998, is characterised chiefly by a discursive and humorous style. Recurring subjects in his work include male–female relations and the Jewish experience in Britain in the mid- to late-20th century. He has been compared to prominent Jewish-American novelists such as Philip Roth, in particular for his habit of creating doppelgängers of himself in his fiction. Jacobson has been called "the English Philip Roth", although he calls himself the "Jewish Jane Austen."
His 1999 novel The Mighty Walzer, about a teenage table tennis champion, won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing. It is set in the Manchester of the 1950s and Jacobson, himself a table tennis fan in his teenage years, admits that there is more than an element of autobiography in it. His 2002 novel Who's Sorry Now?—the central character of which is a Jewish luggage baron of South London—and his 2006 novel Kalooki Nights were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Jacobson described Kalooki Nights as "the most Jewish novel that has ever been written by anybody, anywhere."
As well as writing fiction, he also contributes a weekly column for The Independent newspaper as an op-ed writer. In recent times, he has, on several occasions, attacked anti-Israel boycotts, and for this reason has been labelled a "liberal Zionist."
In October 2010 Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question, which was the first comic novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils in 1986. The book, published by Bloomsbury, explores what it means to be Jewish today and is also about "love, loss and male friendship." Andrew Motion, the chair of the judges, said: "The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize." Jacobson—at the age of 68—was the oldest winner since William Golding in 1980.
Jacobson's 2014 dystopian novel, J, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
He has also worked as a broadcaster. Two recent television programmes include Channel 4's Howard Jacobson Takes on the Turner, in 2000, and The South Bank Show in 2002 featured an edition entitled "Why the Novel Matters." An earlier profile went out in the series in 1999 and a television documentary entitled "My Son the Novelist" preceded it as part of the Arena series in 1985. His two non-fiction books—Roots Schmoots: Journeys Among Jews (1993) and Seriously Funny: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime (1997—were turned into television series.
In 2010 Jacobson presented "Creation," the first part of the Channel 4 series The Bible: A History. (From Wikipedia.)
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