Gentlemen of 
the Road


by Michael Chabon

American edition published on October 30, 2007 by Del Rey Books as a hardcover

American edition published on September 30, 2008 by Del Rey Books as a paperback

Large-print edition published on April 2, 2008 by Thorndike Press as a hardcover

Canadian edition published on October 30, 2007 by Bond Street Books as a hardcover

Canadian edition published on September 30, 2008 by Anchor Canada as a paperback

U.K. edition published on October 25, 2007 by Sceptre as a hardcover

Also published in Dutch, Danish, French, German, Hebrew, Korean, Chinese, Italian, and Portuguese translations

Gentlemen of the Road takes place in the 10th century, partly in the Arran region of Azerbaijan, and includes two Jewish mercenary characters (Zelikman and Amram) who learn about the Jewish empire of Khazaria, and travel there over the course of the story. They soon get involved with the attempt to restore the legitimate prince's family to the Khazar throne following a bloody coup.

This novel was serialized as 15 weekly installments in The New York Times Magazine from January 28, 2007 to May 6, 2007. The book has extra material, including black-and-white drawings by Gary Gianni.

Kevin Alan Brook's nonfiction book The Jews of Khazaria and this website,, were among the main historical sources used by Chabon to research for this novel. Gentlemen of 
the Road UK edition cover

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: On Discord Arising From Excessive Love of a Hat
Chapter 2: On Payment -- and Trouble, Its Inevitable Gratuity
Chapter 3: On the Burdens and Cruelties of the Road
Chapter 4: On the Substitution of One Angel, and One Cause for Another
Chapter 5: On the Observance of the Fourth Commandment Among Horse Thieves
Chapter 6: On Some Peculiarities in the Trading Practices of Northmen
Chapter 7: On the Seizing of a Low Moment
Chapter 8: On a Niceness of Moral Discernment Uncommon Among Gentlemen of the Road
Chapter 9: On Anxieties Arising from the Impermissibility, However Unreasonable, of an Elephant's Rounding Out a Prayer Quorum
Chapter 10: On the Belated Repayment of the Gift of a Pear
Chapter 11: On the Unforeseen and Annoying Resemblance of a Bek's Life to an Ill-Played Game of Shatranj
Chapter 12: On a Consignment of Flesh
Chapter 13: On Swimming to the Library at the Heart of the World
Chapter 14: On the Melancholy Duty of Soldiers to Contend With the Messes Left by Kings
Chapter 15: On Following the Road to One's Destiny, With the Usual Intrusions of Violence and Grace


"...Chabon... recreates 10th-century Khazaria, the fabled kingdom of wild red-haired Jews on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, in this sprightly historical adventure. Zelikman and Amram... find themselves caught up in larger events when they befriend Filaq, the headstrong and unlikable heir to the recently deposed war king of the Khazars. Their attempts to restore Filaq to the throne make for a terrifically entertaining modern pulp adventure replete with marauding armies, drunken Vikings, beautiful prostitutes, rampaging elephants and mildly telegraphed plot points that aren't as they seem. Chabon has a wonderful time writing intentionally purple prose and playing with conventions that were most popular in the days of Rudyard Kipling and Talbot Mundy. ... A significant change from Chabon's weightier novels, this dazzling trifle is simply terrific fun." - Publishers Weekly

"In his ongoing crusade to reanimate tales of adventure set in days of yore, Chabon... offers an ebullient yarn that blithely defies probability... Ridiculously entertaining. If the movie people don't snap this one up, somebody's asleep at the switch." - Kirkus Reviews

"Roughly a dozen full-page illustrations bring authenticity to this piece of genre fiction. It's an even quicker read than the low page count suggests, with twists and turns piled on densely enough to encourage a reader to finish in a single afternoon. Gentlemen of the Road won't win the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a second Pulitzer, but it nearly overflows with joyous, nonstop action while paying pitch-perfect tribute to the pulpy, swashbuckling adventure stories its author clearly loves." - Matt Hotz, Philadelphia City Paper

"...the snack-size epic, ornamented with drawings, combines Chabon's keen, inventive approach to questions of Jewish identity, bravery, and displacement with his taste for degraded forms, in this case the tumescent prose that used to bedeck every panel of a Classics Illustrated comic." - Mark Harris,

"...a lighthearted confection that is decidedly un-literary. ...a delightful work of genre fiction..." - Joseph V. Tirella, New York Post

"The language is beautiful, intentionally archaic and flowery... Chabon has succeeded in creating an engrossing adventure story that also imperceptibly slips us a piece of history." - Cris Rodriguez, BostonNOW

"A fancy encyclopedia or a cheap history lesson might help readers before entering the world of 'Gentlemen of the Road,' which takes for granted an advanced degree in the obscure history of the Khazarian empire. Khazaria, the hub of the Silk Road for five centuries, took in Jews escaping persecution. Chabon joyfully leaves readers out on the limb, tossing out a vocabulary of Beks and Buljans (Who? What?), but throws a lifeline by creating flawed and lovely characters with 21st-century resonance. ... Although not as accessible as Chabon's modern-day stories, the gentleness of the gentlemen of the road is classic Chabon." - Stuart Eskenazi, The Seattle Times

"Within a few pages I was happily tangled in his net of finely filigreed language, seduced by an old-school-style swashbuckling quest complete with outlandish characters, and well, the smell of exotic places. ... And of course flowery language demands a wickedly engaging cast of rogues and heroes. ... 'Gentlemen of the Road' is laced with surprises and humor, both of which keep nudging the 21st century bibliophile along the path of this improbable journey." - Julie Foster, San Francisco Chronicle

"Shorter than Chabon's previous novels, 'Gentlemen of the Road' is an outrageous historical adventure that is pure fun." - Cheri Lucas, The Daily Journal, San Mateo County

"And he executes this storytelling canon in his work with the camaraderie between Zelikman and Amram -- two lonely scoundrels who take to the road. Through their fine quips, loneliness and wanderlust, Chabon makes this uncanny juxtaposition of Jewish adventurers work. ... As one of today's most unparalleled authors, Chabon writes with timeless majesty. His faultless diction matches that of Shakespeare, Dickens and other literary virtuosos of their respective generations. Right down to the delightfully sagacious chapter headings, 'Gentlemen of the Road' packs Chabon's addictive punch with a few delightful twists along the way." - Andy Schmidt, The Badger Herald

"...I've never lost my confidence in the novel's unique ability to provoke and stir us, while keeping us completely entertained. One of the several pleasures of reading 'Gentlemen of the Road' is that it reminds us all of the novel's intrinsic power to do all that. Moreover, according to Chabon, he reread Dumas and Leiber before embarking on this altogether enjoyable and thought-provoking new book. ... Chabon... is a marvelously gifted writer who brings to his work not only an unself-conscious mastery of technique but also a knowing intelligence born of deep and fearless reading. ... There's a great deal of smart and sophisticated enjoyment to be had from 'Gentlemen of the Road' -- and something more." - Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

"Chabon is a winning raconteur, and despite the essential silliness of this 'tale of adventure', it is hard not to feel affectionate. The author's arch turn of phrase and zeal for the thesaurus are delivered from the annoying and made sparkling by the wit and the energy of his writing. Ridiculous but very readable rumbustiousness." - Hermione Buckland-Hoby, New Statesman

"Chabon's highfalutin writing is an object lesson in style perfectly matched to genre. ... The pulp-averse, the history-challenged, the Khazar-illiterate might feel at a disadvantage without a glossary of 10th-century terms. Not every reader will be willing to take all this on literary faith. Nevertheless, if you stick with this tale, you'll be rewarded with a slalom course's worth of twists, not to mention a suitable moral." - Mameve Medwed, The Washington Post

"The book has a melancholy heart while its allegorical echoes are at once hard-nosed, wishful and fantastic (and all the more powerful for that). With its allusive glances here at Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars, there at Don Quixote, its soaring storytelling and subtle resonances with contemporary history, readers might feel that they have reached the book equivalent of the Promised Land." - Neel Mukherjee, The Times, London

"In Gentlemen of the Road, Chabon shows himself to be above all a masterful wordsmith... His ability to capture the precise emotions of his characters indirectly through careful timing and de-familiarizing metaphors is incessantly impressive, just as it has always been." - Cheryl Luce, Chicago Maroon

"If you are a lover of history, you will appreciate this short novel. ... The language and sentence structure hearken back to the czars, so to speak, of classic British Literature. The reader may have to refer to a dictionary to clarify some words -- most of which Chabon probably borrowed from the Middle Ages. However, this high level of writing merely adds to the complexity of the work itself. Although the novel is a mere 196 pages, the complex layers within make up for its brevity. ... In fact, 'Gentlemen of the Road' and its layers are so compelling one almost wonders if Chabon will write a sequel. Readers may be left wanting more." - Amy Allen, Vail Daily

"...the book is a relatively modest entertainment, both in length and ambition. But it is consciously intended as grand fun, not great literature. ... The most original aspect of the book is its use of Judaism, which continues the playful melding of genre and Jews that Chabon prominently featured in his recent full-fledged novel, 'The Yiddish Policemen's Union.' ... Chabon largely prefers to show the aftermath of violence, so the expected cleaving and bleeding are kept to an unexpectedly discreet minimum. But 'Gentlemen of the Road' still features action aplenty, supplemented with generous humor, a superabundance of arcane vocabulary, several outrageous coincidences and one not-entirely-unpredictable surprise." - Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post Dispatch

"Michael Chabon's latest novel, Gentleman of the Road, is a Victorian-style adventure tale that's easy to finish in a couple of sittings and is thoroughly enjoyable. It's refreshing to read some escapist fiction by a major American novelist. ... It offers the reader a chance to truly escape into an exotic world that can never be visited. ... Books like Gentleman of the Road are rare because they offer escapism in an intelligent way. ... Novels about the gritty realities of day-to-day life are important, and more of this would be welcome. But sometimes readers need to get out of the office, and novelists are supposed to take them there. Chabon does it really well." - Michael Maiello,

"From the opening sentence of this rip-roaring, swashbuckling yarn, you know that you're in the hands of a master. ... It's all gloriously over-the-top stuff. ... Gentlemen Of The Road is smart, clever and stylish." - Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

"Chabon's story is a compact odyssey in which character and temperament are put to the test and the edge of a knife. We are transported to the 10th century, to a kingdom that is now a region of Azerbaijan. Chabon takes us there with gentle humour, elegant flourishes and exacting historical detail as he tells the tale of a couple of rogue adventurers. ... This time, Chabon imagines a world set in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and the Caspian seas. ... Chabon's fascination with hidden lives will be familiar to readers of his other works... Yet, despite its tendency to introspection now and then, the book remains old-fashioned fun. Chabon loves language. He twists and turns his prose even more than the plot. His words are sumptuous. ... My only gripe is that this 'tale of adventure' is, unlike the Silk Road, too short." - Helen Greenwood, The Sydney Morning Herald

"...stylish and often dazzlingly conceived. ... It's all great fun, even though the twist in 'Gentlemen of the Road' is a bit predictable and Chabon's love of language sometimes gets the better of him. ... 'Gentlemen of the Road' is a pleasant diversion, an afternoon's worth of escapism that reminds a reader that sometimes the best literature merely entertains." - Regis Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"Det blomstrende og sprudlende sprogbrug er godt ... en læseoplevelse ud over de sædvanlige." ("The flowery and vibrant language is good ... a reading experience beyond the ordinary.") - MetroXpress

"Fremragende finurlig og eventyrlig roman, bør nydes af flest mulig." ("An excellent whimsical and adventurous novel that should be enjoyed by as many as possible.") - Bibliotekernes Lektørudtalelser

"Writing, for me, is about what I love, what I'm passionate about, what sets my heart and brain on fire. different ways, at different levels, with different effects, but with the same unstoppable obsessive-compulsive drive, those are all things (Holmes, Holocaust, parrots) that I can't stop thinking about. Same goes for elephants, swordsmen and the early history of European Jewry. ... I no longer remember where I first read about the Khazars, but it was not long after I first discovered Borges, say in 1982, and I remember wondering if this article or encylopedia entry or whatever it was might be some kind of elaborate historical hoax. A medieval empire at war with the Vikings and Byzantium that lasted for more than four centuries, that was famous all over the world at the time, and everybody was Jewish! What? How come nobody ever told me about them? The Khazars felt like secret knowledge, and secret knowledge is definitely a source of inspiration for me."
- Michael Chabon, in an interview with Julie Phillips in The Washington Post, November 4, 2007

Michael Chabon is an American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000). He is also the author of The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007), The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), and other works.


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Novels of related interest:
The Wind of the Khazars
The Jewish Kingdom of Kuzar
Haham Kral Hazarlı Davut (The Rabbi King, David of Khazaria)
Dictionary of the Khazars
Fictional Literature about the Khazars

Non-fiction books of related interest:
The Jews of Khazaria
The Khazars: A Judeo-Turkish Empire on the Steppes, 7th-11th Centuries AD

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