The Return of the Shakespearean Jester: Postmemory and the Modes of Remembrance in Howard Jacobson’s Kalooki Nights (2006)

Alessandra Crotti


The tight matrix of death and laughter at the heart of Howard Jacobson’s Kalooki Nights (2006) is firmly rooted in the carnivalesque modes and tragic form of Hamlet. There is, I will argue, a striking affinity between Jacobson’s post-memorial novel and the Shakespearean tragedy: the return of the Ghost, with its demand for revenge and remembrance, may be read as an embodiment ante litteram of the anachronistic movement of postmemory. In overt contrast with the etiquette of tragedy, Yorick’s skull re-emerges from the earth of the graveyard and, a fool in the midst of a tragic tale, ‘carnivalizes’ Shakespeare’s play; similarly, all sorts of carnivalesque imageries envelop the postmemorial themes and tales of Kalooki Nights. Moreover, the return of the Shakespearean jester, amplified in Hamlet through jesting, puns and wordplays, mirrors the way in which the past re-emerges, carnivalized, from the rich and ambivalent textual soil of Jacobson’s novel.

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