LISTEN: Joshua Cohen On Winning a Pulitzer for ‘The Netanyahus’

Haaretz Weekly
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Benzion Netanyahu and his son Benjamin at a memorial service for his eldest son, Yoni, killed during the Entebbe rescue operation
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Netanyahu with his father, Benzion, who lived to 102 and did research into his late 90s.Credit: flash 90
Haaretz Weekly

“If I thought that I was going to win the Pulitzer for a book called ‘The Netanyahus’ I would have to be crazy to want to be in Israel when that happened,” novelist Joshua Cohen tells host Allison Kaplan Sommer on Haaretz Weekly, shortly after arriving in Israel for the Jerusalem International Book Forum and Writers Festival.

In the interview, recorded in Tel Aviv days after he got the news, Cohen says he is still in shock that he had won the biggest literary prize in the United States for a novel “that has characters in it that most Americans can't pronounce their names.”

Cohen’s part-historical, part-fictional satire is subtitled “An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family.” Its main character is the brilliant but embittered Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, best-known today as the father of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

As he was writing, Cohen says, he “kept on thinking of the line in ‘The Big Lebowski’ where the Dude says to Walter: ‘You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.’ And that was Benzion Netanyahu."

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