October 17th, 2016
In this intriguing but not entirely satisfying alternate history, Zelitch (The Confession of Jack Straw) imagines that instead of Israel being carved out of Palestine, Judenstaat was established in “Saxony, bordering Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia,” in 1948. The history of the state is explored through an intriguing framing device: as the 40th anniversary of Judenstaat’s founding nears, archivist Judit Klemmer is making a commemorative documentary. The project is hampered by the ghost of Judit’s murdered husband, Hans, the country’s first ethnic German conductor, who haunts her and protests every time she edits out sections of historical footage. And her life only becomes more complicated when a mystery is added to the plot after she is slipped a note saying that “they” lied about Hans’s murder. The central idea is certainly an interesting one, but occasional winks to the reader dilute the effectiveness of Zelitch’s thought experiment; for example, a character complains that “goyim kill goyim and they blame the Jews,” throwing readers out of Zelitch’s timeline and back into ours, and the Judenstaat flag, inspired by a uniform worn in Auschwitz, is called the Stripes and Star. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary.