Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

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Tinahas quoted8 months ago
Men tend to cry, in Landsman’s experience, when they have been living for a long time with a sense of rightness and safety, and then they realize that all along, just under their boots, ley the abyss.
Tatiana Korolevahas quoted2 years ago
But the truth is that Landsman has only two moods: working and dead.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“Let me tell you something, Meyer.” She grabs his hand, digging her nails into his skin. “The day you ever have that much control over my behavior, it will be because somebody’s asking you, should she get the pine box or a plain white shroud?”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“It wasn’t a chess game,” Landsman says after a moment. “On the board in Shpilman’s room. It was a problem. It seems obvious now, I should have seen it, the setup was so freaky. Somebody came to see Shpilman that night, and Shpilman posed him a problem. A tricky one.” He moves the pieces of the pocket chess set, his grasp of them sure, his hand steady. “White is all set up to promote his pawn, see. And he wants to promote it to a knight. That’s called underpromotion, because usually, you want to get yourself a queen. With a knight here, he has three different ways to mate, he thinks. But that’s a mistake, because it leaves Black — that was Mendel — with a way to drag the game out. If you’re White, you have to ignore the obvious thing. Just make a dull move with the bishop, here at c2. You don’t even notice it at first. But after you make it, every move Black has leads directly to a mate. He can’t move without finishing himself. He has no good moves.”

“No good moves,” Bina says.

“They call that Zugzwang,” Landsman says. “’Forced to move.’ It means Black would be better off if he could just pass.”

“But you aren’t allowed to pass, are you? You have to do something, don’t you?”

“Yes, you do,” Landsman says. “Even when you know it’s only going to lead to you getting check mated.”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“I can’t believe I did that,” she says, availing herself of a tissue from her endless stash. “That is the kind of thing you would do.”

“People I know keep having that problem,” Landsman says. “Suddenly acting like me.”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
The space recently occupied by his mind hisses like the fog in his ears, hums like a bank of fluorescent tubes. He feels that he suffers from tinnitus of the soul.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
Litvak knew that charisma was a real if indefinable quality, a chemical fire that certain half-fortunate men gave off. Like any fire or talent, it was amoral, unconnected to goodness or wickedness, power or usefulness or strength.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“Let’s begin with our southern friends. If it were simply a case of their wanting something, some tangible feature or resource … oil, for example. Or if they were prompted by a more purely strategic concern with regard to Russia or Persia. In either case, they clearly don’t need us. However difficult a conquest the Holy Land might be, our physical presence, our willingness to fight, our arms, can’t make a great difference to their battle plan.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“The U.S. Government.”

“This is what I’m saying.”

“Because they think the idea of a bunch of crazy yids running around Arab Palestine, blowing up shrines and following Messiahs and starting World War Three is a really good idea.”

“They’re just as crazy, Bina. You know they are. Maybe they’re hoping for World War Three. Maybe they want to crank up a new Crusade. Maybe they think if they do this thing, it will make Jesus come back. Or maybe it has nothing to do with any of that, and it’s all really about oil, you know, securing their supply of the stuff once and for all. I don’t know.”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“Who are these people?” Hertz Shemets says. “They’re yids. Yids with a scheme. I know that’s a tautology.”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
It was hatred at first sight, the kind of grand romantic hatred that in thirteen-year-old boys is indistinguishable from or the nearest they can get to love.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“Are you taking medication?”

“No, not really.”

“Not really?”

“No. I don’t want to.”

“You don’t want to.”

“I’m, you know. Afraid I might lose my edge.”

“That explains the drinking, then,” the doctor says. His words seem tinged with a sardonic whiff of licorice. “I hear it does wonders for one’s edge.”
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
Willie Dick has all the usual bad qualities of very small, very intelligent men: vanity, arrogance, overcompetitiveness, a long memory for injuries and slights. He is also honest, dogged, and fearless, and he owes Landsman a favor; Dick has a long memory for favors, too.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
He’s too superstitious not to see this as a bad omen, but when you’re a pessimist, all omens are bad.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
Every generation loses the messiah it has failed to deserve.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
“He said you were a good detective, but you were known to have certain problems.”

And there, Landsman, is the line for your head stone.
Tinahas quoted8 months ago
By now they were all staunch Alaskan Jews, which meant they were utopians, which mean they saw imperfection everywhere they looked.
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