The Netanyahus: All in all, a veritable triumph

Book review: A comedy of manners to campus caper by way of social and religious satire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) sits with his father Professor Benzion Netanyahu in March 2012. Photograph: Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) sits with his father Professor Benzion Netanyahu in March 2012. Photograph: Getty Images

In a postface to his sixth novel, Joshua Cohen relates how he befriended Harold Bloom (to whom this book is dedicated) towards the close of his life. The venerable American critic regaled Cohen with countless anecdotes – playing chess with Nabokov, skinny-dipping with Derrida – but the one that made the greatest impression was the time he supervised the campus visit of an “obscure Israeli historian” called Benzion Netanyahu, who rocked up with his feral family, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

Netanyahu’s second-born went on to become the longest-serving, and most controversial, prime minister in Israeli history, thus endowing this farcical fait divers with a retrospective patina of world-historical importance: “An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family”.

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