Nu Mettle

(Week-of-unrelated-quotes catch-up post, four of five.)

From The Finkler Question, p. 177 in the Bloomsbury paperback: Julian Treslove is the protagonist, who, at this point in the novel, although not born Jewish, feels like perhaps he is Jewish; Finkler and Libor are two old friends, both born Jewish, both men Jewish in very different ways (Finkler very British, I think, and self-loathing, and a famous philosopher; Libor much older than Treslove or Finkler, and their former teacher, and a former film critic, and very Czech). Hephzibah is Treslove’s new girlfriend, also born Jewish, and Libor’s great-great niece by marriage. Here, Treslove has recently moved in with Hephzibah, and Libor and Finkler are coming over for dinner:

When Libor arrived, Treslove truly felt outnumbered. Hephzibah exerted an unexpected influence on his two guests—she dissolved their Jewish differences.

‘Nu?’ Libor asked of Finkler.

Treslove wasn’t sure if that was the way to report it. Do you ask ‘Nu’ of? Or do you just ask, transitively? ‘Nu?’ he asked. And is it even a question in the accepted sense? ‘Nu,’ he said. Would that have been better? Nu, meaning how are things with you, but also I know how things are with you.

So much to master.

I like how the work of the writer and the thoughts of the protagonist blur there momentarily in wondering about how to attribute the quote. I like what follows, too:

But the surprise was that Finkler answered in kind. When there had been no Hephzibah he had castigated Libor for his Jewish barbarisms, but today he twinkled like a rabbi. ‘A halber emes izt a gantzer lign,’ he said.

‘A half truth is a whole lie,’ Hephzibah whispered to Treslove.

‘I know,’ he lied.