Goldberg, Paul. “The Château: A Novel”, Picador, 2018.
In January 2017 William M. Katzebnelebogen believes that he has hit rock bottom. He had been a successful science reporter at the Washington Post but was fired and his resources are severely limited. Then he learns that his college roommate, Zbignew Wronski, a plastic surgeon known as the “Butt God of Miami Beach,” has fallen to his death under suspicious and salacious circumstances. Having nothing to lose, Bill catches a plane to Hollywood Florida (aka Florida’s Gold Coast) to begin his own investigation and perhaps a chance to revive his career. However, there is a catch; Bill’s father, Melsor.
Melsor Yakovlevich Katzenelenbogen is something of an everyman and a who-is-who. He is a poet, a literary scholar, a political dissident and small time crook who now wants to gain control of the condo board at the “Chateau Sedan Neuve, a crumbling high-rise in Hollywood, Florida, populated mostly by Russian Jewish immigrants.” Melsor considers some of those who are presently on the board to be “fraudsters levying ‘special assessments” on residents” and he will use whatever means necessary to win the board election. He also thinks that the best person to help him do so is his son Bill, even though they have been estranged for some time.
It is quite difficult to classify this book genre-wise. It is investigative reporting; it becomes something of a crime novel and it is a black comedy. Then there is the idea that it indeed is a microcosm of the America we live in under the lack of leadership of the 45th president whose name is best left unsaid for fear of ugly retaliation or something like that. Now I did not say that this novel is a look at Fascism but you can surely say so. By the way, if you have not caught it, the name Melsor is an anagram for Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and the October Revolution.
Most of us are familiar with condo associations and their boards but until you live in a condo in Florida with an entire Jewish population, you really have no idea about how they work (or in this case, don’t work). After reading this you might never want to live in a condo, anyway. We also get a look at “petty crime, Jewish identity, kleptocracy (and yes this is a word), vodka, Fascism and Florida’ but forget what you knew about them before reading “The Chateau”.