- The Final Solution (novel)
name = The Final Solution
language = English
publisher = Fourth Estate, an imprint of
November 9, 2004
media_type = Print (
Hardcoverand Paperback) and audio-CD
pages = 144 (hardcover edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-06-076340-X (hardcover edition); ISBN 0-00-719603-2 (British softcover edition)
"The Final Solution" is a 2004 novel by
Michael Chabon. It is a detective story that in many ways pays homage to the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyleand other writers of the genre. The story, set in 1944, revolves around an unnamed 89 year old detective (who may or may not be a long-retired Sherlock Holmesbut is always called just "the old man"), now interested mostly in beekeeping, and his quest to find a missing parrot, the only friend of a mute Jewishboy. The title of the novel references Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story " The Final Problem," in which Holmes confronts his greatest enemy, Professor Moriarty, at Reichenbach Falls, and the Nazis' plan for the genocide of the Jewishpeople, the Final Solution.
Although the plot of the story is modelled on the classic ratiocination stories of Doyle, there are two separate mysteries in the book, only one of which the Holmes character is able to solve by the end. The story opens with the description of a chance encounter between the old man and the young boy Linus Steinman, who, we find out moments later, is a German-Jewish refugee staying with a local Anglican priest and his family. Because the parrot sitting on the boy's shoulder is in the habit of rattling off German numbers in no obvious order -- "vier, sieben, zwei, drei, vier..." ("four, seven, two, three, four")-- the old man quickly deduces the boy's reason for being in England. After we are introduced to the priest, his wife, son and two lodgers sitting at dinner, we find out that the numbers may have some significance. One lodger speculates that the numbers are a military code of some kind and seeks to crack it. The other lodger, a Mr. Shane, from the British foreign office, pretends at dinner not to even notice the bird, which the family and Linus call Bruno. But because everyone else around the table is intensely interested in it, Shane's behavior only heightens their suspicions.
After Mr. Shane is found murdered the next morning and the parrot Bruno has gone missing, the local inspector, Michael Bellows, recruits the old man to help solve the mystery. The old man, his interest piqued by the boy's strange attachment to his bird, agrees only to find the parrot -- "If we should encounter the actual murderer along the way, well, then it will be so much the better for you," he says (ending chapter 3). Although the Holmes character succeeds in that endeavor, neither he nor anyone else in the book discovers what the true meaning of the numbers are, though there are clear implications of a solution. One hint, given by the author Chabon, is that the numbers are often recited in the presence of trains, and indeed, the parrot calls it "the train song." Another hint, revealed in the book's penultimate chapter, which is told from the perspective of Bruno, is that the boy and his parrot used to visit a Herr Obergruppenfuehrer while still in Germany, where it is implied he learned the "song." But the biggest hint of all is the book's title and the boy's dumbness. The novella originally appeared as "The Final Solution: A Story of Detection" in "
The Paris Review" #166, Summer 2003. It won the 2003 Aga Khan Prize for Fictionand was reprinted in book form in November 2004. [ [http://www.sugarbombs.com/kavalier/works.html The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay - Works ] ]
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