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End of the World

Novelists Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen discuss their dark visions of the future

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This week, Vox Tablet invites listeners to consider some unconventional summer reading. Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen have both come out with new novels that paint a very dark picture of the future. In Super Sad True Love Story, Shteyngart envisions a not-so-distant world in which the United States is a crumbling, militarized empire, public and private life are indistinguishable and projected for all to see through social networking technologies, and the reading of books is a lost art. In Cohen’s novel Witz, a mysterious plague has claimed the lives of all but one of the world’s Jews, and that last Jew, Benjamin Israelien, is subject to the passions of a public that is equal parts philo- and anti-Semitic.

The novelists take their dystopian visions in radically different directions—Shteyngart has written a fast-moving love story, while Cohen’s is more stream-of-Jewish-consciousness, dense with wordplay and religious and cultural references. Tablet Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse sat down with the two of them for a sometimes bookish, other times bawdy, conversation over drinks and smoked fish, on a sweltering summer day on the boardwalk of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. 

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Jacob says:

The desperate attempt of making fun of tragic situations doesn’t really give confidence in the authorial vision. These guys aren’t serious, they are clowns.

I hate to tell these ghetto shlumps not all Jews hate their bodies.

I hate to tell this self-righteous scold but not all Jews lack a sense of humor.

Jacob says:

Corey says:
“I hate to tell this self-righteous scold but not all Jews lack a sense of humor.”

One can justify any gaucherie by appealing to a “sense of humor.”

People like Gary Shteyngart have internalized the Jew hatred of the antisemite for the “Jewish body.”

Joshua Cohen’s problem is different. This fool really thinks that murder ( death from medical causes in his book)of the Jewish people will make everyone “more Jewish.”

In fact the opposite is likely the case. If any one religion will attain supremacy, it’s the odious religion of Islam which appeals to the ignorant and uneducated that is to say most of the world.

Finally, many Jewish ‘intellectuals” are scared to death of antisemitism which is why they take refuge in fantasy and unfunny humor instead of fighting people like Oliver Stone and many other left wing intellectual bigots.

N.Shum-Ish says:

My personal opinion is that China will patiently let things here just get worse and worse. Finally they will tell us that no one anywhere could ethically tolerate the situation, and so they have to step in.

Arnon says:

Nshumish seems to have gotten lost somewhere between the China Sea and the gulf of Mejico.

Shmuel says:

Shteyngart seems to have transfered his hatred of his Hebrew School and himself unto the Jewish people.

TheDevilCanDance says:


There is something so Freudian about your comments,but you have the right prescription, humor is antisemitic….

lovelyisraelis says:

I prefer Philip Roth:

”Oh, what an impoverished Jew this arrogant Israeli is! Yes, they are the authentic ones, the Yehoshuas and the Ozes, and tell me, I ask them, what are Saul Alinsky and David Riesman and Meyer Schapiro and Leonard Bernstein and Bella Abzug and Paul Goodman and Allen Ginsberg, and on and on and on and on? Who do they think they are, these provincial nobodies! Jailers! This is their great Jewish achievement—to make Jews into jailers and jet-bomber pilots!”

..philip roth

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End of the World

Novelists Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen discuss their dark visions of the future

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