In one of the very best episodes of Seinfeld, Jerry and his girlfriend are caught kissing during a performance of Schindler’s List. His Jewish parents are predictably shocked and disappointed. ‘You were making out during Schindler’s List? … How could you do such a thing?’ Elliot Perlman’s third novel, The Street Sweeper, a sprawling paean to the world’s neglected and dispossessed that takes both the American Civil Rights Movement and the Holocaust as its primary subjects, wears something of Mr and Mrs Seinfeld’s understandable po-face.
Quite apart from the subject matter, it has the most extensive scholarly apparatus of any piece of newly published fiction I have ever read – an appendix of ‘sources consulted’, as well as a scrupulous author’s note explaining the exact relationship of his characters to real individuals. Then, there is