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The simplest thing would be to describeEverything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer's accomplished debut, as a novel about the Holocaust. It is, but that really fails to do justice to the sheer ambition of this book. The main story is a grimly familiar one. A young Jewish American--who just happens to be called Jonathan Safran Foer--travels to the Ukraine in the hope of finding the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is aided in his search by Alex Perchov, a naïve Ukrainian translator, Alex's grandfather (also called Alex), and a flatulent mongrel dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. On their journey through Eastern Europe's obliterated landscape they unearth facts about the Nazi atrocities and the extent of Ukrainian complicity that have implications for Perchov as well as Safran Foer. This narrative is not, however, recounted from (the character) Jonathan Safran Foer's perspective. It is relayed through a series of letters that Alex sends to Foer. These are written in the kind of broken Russo-English normally reserved for Bond villains or Latka fromTaxi. Interspersed between these letters are fragments of a novel by Safran Foer--a wonderfully imagined, almost magical realist, account of life in the shtetl before the Nazis destroyed it. These are in turn commented on by Alex, creating an additional metafictional angle to the tale.

If all this sounds a little daunting, don't be put off; Safran Foer is an extremely funny as well as intelligent writer who combines some of the best Jewish folk yarns since Isaac Bashevis Singer with a quite heartbreaking meditation on love, friendship, and loss. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk

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Books, Fiction, Jonathan Safran Froer

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ISBN-10:  0618173870
ISBN-13:  978-0618173877
Author:  Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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review by . November 21, 2002
Not since "A Clockwork Orange" have I read a book that contains such unusual writing that becomes an important part of the story. The sections supposedly composed by the young Ukrainian are oddly phrased, as if by a person struggling to understand English as a second language, and the first few sections with this type of writing was a struggle. Eventually, however, reading it became almost second nature, and the story flowed very well. And what a story it is! We have a history, of sorts, of a Polish/Ukrainian …
review by . May 22, 2002
Take note of the name Jonathan Safran Foer. Here is a promising new writer. And if you want to know more about him (more than the bizarrely designed book cover capsulizes) just read this innovative first novel, as the author makes himself the principal character. EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED sheds a lot of light on Foer's literary if not genetic background.This short novel packs a wallop, mostly due to the method in which it is written. For a quick synopsis of the story refer to the editorial reviews …
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Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel
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