Alternative Geographies for Alternative Stories. The Diagonal Space in Michael Chabron’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

Alice Balestrino


The present paper discusses the construction of fictional spaces with particular focus on their relationship to history by demonstrating how in Michael Chabon’s alternate history The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, a re-configuration of geography corresponds to a re-interpretation of history. My argument is grounded in the postmodernist construction of literature as having an ontological dominant and I hold that the abovementioned cause-effect relationship between history and geography engenders in the novel a fictional “space-time,” diagonal to the actual world. The latter represents a third alternative to factuality and fictionality; therefore, it is a diagonal originating from the intersection between the two, a universe where history and geography, as well as factuality and counter-factuality mingle and collide. By resorting to the ubiquitous metaphor of the chess game, I present a reading of the novel as generative literary endeavor and of the narrative as selfsustained space-time, grounded in two main vectors of diagonality: language and history.


literature; American literature; Michael Chabon

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