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28 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 17 February 2013

Mariella Frostrup talks to stand up comedian, tv presenter and novelist David Baddiel and writer and broadaster Naomi Alderman about what defines a Jewish novel, as Jewish Book week begins in London next week. From the pre-eminence of great American icons like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow - to the revered Europeans Kafka, Joseph Roth and Bruno Schulz - and now an emerging generation of British Jewish writers - what if anything do books by Jewish writers have in common? Does the fusion of their Jewish cultural roots with those of their adoptive countries create a particular literary form and what impact does a writer's Jewish identity have on the way such books are received? David Baddiel's last book The Death of Eli Gold appropriately starts at the death bed of a Philip Roth like figure - and Naomi Alderman's debut noel Disobedience rocked the orthodox Jewish community in North London where she was brought up, whilst her latest novel The Liars Gospel tells an alternative history of Jesus.

Jim Crace talks about his new novel Harvest, which will also be his last as he has announced he is retiring as a novelist. The writer of award winning novels such as Continent, Booker shortlisted Quarantine, The Gift of Stones and most recently All That Follows, Harvest is set in an isolated rural community during an unspecified time which feels like the middle ages but could equally be post apocalytic. Despite its historical setting it resonates strongly with contemporary concerns, exploring as it does the impact of rapid social change on the village in which it is set, in particular the stress it places on relationships with outsiders.

And Indian writer Amit Chaudhuri explains why, after setting three novels in his native Calcutta, he has turned to non-fiction in his new account of the city. Until 1911 Calcutta was the capital of India and a centre for arts and culture, but is now most associated in the public mind with Mother Theresa - and as a city where children return to take care of ageing parents as Chaudhuri himself has done.

Producer: Hilary Dunn.

  • Read the Opening Chapter of Harvest by Jim Crace

  • Read the Opening Chapter of Calcutta: Two Years in the City by Amit Chaudhuri

  • Get ahead with Mariella’s next book Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell


    Jewish Novel discussion

    Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question

    Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks

    Howard Jacobson - Kalooki Nights

    Publisher: Vintage

    Naomi Alderman

    The Liars’ Gospel – Naomi Alderman

    Publisher: Viking

    Disobedience – Naomi Alderman

    Publisher: Penguin

    David Baddiel

    The Death of Eli Gold – David Baddiel

    Publisher: Fourth Estate

    The Secret Purposes – David Baddiel

    Publisher: Abacus

    Hope: A Tragedy – Shalom Auslander

    Publisher: Picador

    Jim Crace

    Harvest – Jim Crace

    Publisher: Picador

    Amit Chaudhuri

    Calcutta: Two Years in the City – Amit Chaudhuri

    Publisher: Union Books


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