November 17, 2021
General News

How the Netanyahus Explain the World

“Forgetting, I would even say historical error, is an essential factor in the creation of a nation,” wrote the French philologist Ernest Renan in 1882. One would have thought history is about remembering, but it’s thanks to Renan and his disciple Benedict Anderson that nations are today widely understood to be “imagined” into being. And as every novelist knows, fiction is an art of selection—the legerdemain of leaving things out.

None of this is news to Ruben Blum, the unassuming professor and bumbling father at the center of Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus. Chatty, Jewish, and “an historian” (though not “an historian of the Jews”), he considers himself to be above the fictionalization in which both nationalists and novelists indulge. “I’d like to think my profession has made me more attuned than most,” he assures the reader, “to the selective use…

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