Moving Kings

Joshua Cohen

Published 20 July 2017, French paperback with flaps, 240 pages

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One of the boldest voices of his generation, Joshua Cohen returns with Moving Kings, a propulsive, incendiary novel that interweaves, in profoundly intimate terms, the housing crisis in America’s poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods with the world’s oldest conflict, in the Middle East. 
    The year is 2015, and twenty-one-year-olds Yoav and Uri, veterans of the last Gaza War, have just completed their compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces. In keeping with national tradition, they take a year off for rest, recovery, and travel. They come to New York City and begin working for Yoav’s distant cousin David King – a proud American patriot, Republican, and Jew, and the recently divorced proprietor of King’s Moving Inc., a heavyweight in the Tri-State area’s moving and storage industries. What starts off as a profitable if eerily familiar job – an “Occupation” – quickly turns violent when they encounter one homeowner seeking revenge.
    Driven by Cohen’s characteristic intelligence, boundless energy, psychological tension, and humor, Moving Kings is a powerful and provocative novel about faith, race, class, and what it means to have a home.

‘A Jewish Sopranos … burly with particularities and vibrant with voice … utterly engrossing, full of passionate sympathy … This is a book of brilliant sentences, brilliant paragraphs, brilliant chapters … There’s not a page without some vital charge – a flash of metaphor, an idiomatic originality, a bastard neologism born of nothing … Cohen is an extraordinary prose stylist, surely one of the most prodigious in American fiction today … his sentences are all-season journeyers, able to do everything everywhere at once … A crystalline novelist with a journalistic openness to the world.’
James Wood, New Yorker

‘Joshua Cohen’s Moving Kings is a lit fuse, a force let loose, a creeping flame heading for demolition, and Cohen himself is a fierce polyknower in command of the workings of the moving parts of much of the human predicament. A master of argot and wit, he writes the language of men in a staccato yet keening idiom of his own invention. And though it is set in a grungy New York, call this the first Israeli combat novel ever dared by an American writer.’
— Cynthia Ozick, author of Foreign Bodies

‘Joshua Cohen is a blacksmith who heats, hammers and molds the language to sharpest, most precise points. Not for the sake of craft, but to tell a troubled story about troubled life in the twenty-first century. This is a dazzling and poignant book.’
— Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

‘If there is a job of the epoch, it might be the Removal Specialist. Since 2008, and the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, removal firms have been doing well. David, the star of Joshua Cohen’s new novel, owns such a firm, and he’s currently being asset-stripped by his wife. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv might not be the best place to seek solvency. Funny, smart, and perfectly addictive, Moving Kings is a novel of wonderful scope. It shows Cohen at the top of his powers and is bound to bring him many new readers, hot for a fresh understanding of America.’
— Andrew O’Hagan, author of The Illuminations

‘Joshua Cohen has become one of America’s top young novelists … His new novel, Moving Kings, is the tale of a modern-day King David … Cohen’s writing is filled with sharp turns of phrase and elegant rhythms … The denouement is as vengeful as any Old Testament plot twist.’
— Sarah Begley, Time

‘[Cohen] explores the differences between an American Jew and his newly arrived Israeli cousins with intelligence and sympathy … This is an astute and often penetrating look at a divided world, lightened with sympathy for all its flawed protagonists.’
Alexander Larman, the Observer

‘At 240 pages, Moving Kings is considerably shorter than Cohen’s previous two novels – the dazzling, tech industry-satirising Book of Numbers (2015), and his 2010 800-page epic Witz – but it’s sharper and feels important and timely for the way it dramatises life at the harsh end of western societies where housing is regarded as a commodity rather than a right. This is a deeply political novel that helps us to imagine a world where the real kings and queens will not be the property racketeers, but instead those who attain a freedom that has nothing to do with what they own.’
Max Liu, Financial Times

‘[A] brilliant American novelist … [Moving Kings] is subtle and intelligent and compelling – and quite brilliantly composed, every page wriggling with little riffs and sallies.’
Ian Sansom, the Guardian

‘Dense, insightful, and funny … [Moving Kings is] at its best when tied up in the on-running thoughts of its main characters, spiked with deliciously barbed turns of phrase, blending intensity and humour in equal parts.’
Ian Maleney, Irish Times

‘[A] gritty, thought-provoking and enthralling read.’
Buzz Magazine

‘This lively story of the fraught ties that bind an American, Republican Jew and his Israeli family makes another strong case for Cohen’s admission into the ranks of the Great American Novelists.’

‘[A] brilliant book … Cohen has a brain-on-fire intellect and a Balzac-grade enthusiasm for understanding varieties of experience.’
— Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times

Moving Kings is a swift, darkly funny, surprising – and brilliant – novel … [Cohen] manages to bring together a treatment of 50 years of the Palestinian occupation with a story about American gentrification.’
— Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Vice

‘[An] engaging book that alternates between New York City and Israel to tell of characters looking for, or jealously guarding, a sense of home and belonging…. Cohen writes evocatively about the Israeli terrain.’
— Rebecca Foster, Nudge

‘Though written with all the swagger, dazzle, and gonzo humor we’ve come to expect from Cohen, Moving Kings is a focused, efficient novel about the idea of home and its absence, about what it means to be unhomed and what it might feel like to unhome others in turn…. On every page there’s a description or observation with a clarity and freshness that shocks you with the thrill of recognition.’
— Jon Day, Bookforum

‘Snappy, heartfelt, vivid, and often note-perfect in its depiction of displacement, aging, and the compromises of being part of an occupying force.’
— Karan Mahajan

Moving Kings is a svelte comic triumph that concentrates [Cohen’s] genius. Here, in a story inflected by verbal dexterity but not overwhelmed by it, Cohen explores themes of power and Jewish identity with the same insight that has justly attracted praise from some of the country’s most sophisticated writers.’
Ron Charles, Washington Post

‘Trenchant social critique … A kaleidoscopic cross-section of New York’s underclass … Cohen gets to the heart of his troubled characters, sensitively portraying damaged psyches from all levels of Israeli and American society.’
— Library Journal (starred review)

‘In his audacious new novel, [Joshua] Cohen confronts the bewildering nature of displacement…. Lovingly personal character studies, an outrageous sense of humor, and a voice both stylish and astute.’

‘Wild brilliance … An ambitious and thought-provoking read.’
Publishers Weekly

‘A wide-ranging novel that touches on political, religious, and social issues … [Cohen] is funny and caustic and has a marvelous snap in his dialogue.’
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

An interview with Joshua Cohen in the Oxonian Review

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. His books include the novels Moving Kings, Book of Numbers, Witz, A Heaven of Others, and Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto; the short fiction collection Four New Messages, and the non-fiction collection Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction. Called ‘a major American writer’ by the New York Times, ‘maybe America’s greatest living writer’ by the Washington Post, and ‘an extraordinary prose stylist, surely one of the most prodigious at work in American fiction today’ by the New Yorker, Cohen was awarded Israel’s 2013 Matanel Prize for Jewish Writers, and in 2017 was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. In 2022, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Netanyahus. He lives in New York City.