Monday, February 4, 2008

THE FINAL SOLUTION by Michael Chabon

Chabon's Final Solution, though a slight, minor work, ultimately impresses me with its imagined confrontation between Sherlock Holmes, epitome of 19th-century rationality, and the genocidal 20th-century irrationality of the Holocaust. Chabon keeps the Holocaust theme subtle in his text (if not in his title, which terribly gives the game away), treating it more subtly than I would have (and I would've been wrong, overemphatic), touching the terror, in fact, in an oblique, Sebaldian way that preserves its irrationality, that doesn't try to contain the horror within a framework of 19th-century realism--the subtle but serious flaw of most ficitional treatments of the Holocaust. At the end, Holmes, limited in this new and terrible world by his antiquated hyper-rationality, cannot achieve this final solution, cannot quite grasp the horror. It is good, surprisingly so, and I find myself wishing it were longer, more complicated (Chabon can complicate a narrative with more facility than just about any writer alive, as evidenced by the first 80 pages of Wonder Boys), the characters better developed.

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