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Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel

A book by Jonathan Safran Froer

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A powerful, but unusual, book

  • Nov 21, 2002
Rating:
+5
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 shtetl from the 18th to the mid-20th century, interspersed with a search by a young American writer for his family's roots, connected with the long-suppressed tale of guilt by the Ukrainian's grandfather. It, at times, seems very complicated, but it all comes together. The writing is first-rate, and it involves the reader deeply in the story. We become quite close to the characters, and care very deeply about them all, even the supposedly minor ones. There is comedy, farce, tragedy, love, sorrow and forgetting, and almost the entire gamut of human emotions. This is not an easy book to get into initially, but persistence will pay the reader great rewards.

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More Everything is Illuminated reviews
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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Frank J. Konopka ()
Ranked #93
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
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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 ...

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Tags

Books, Fiction, Jonathan Safran Froer

Details

ISBN-10: 0618173870
ISBN-13: 978-0618173877
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First to Review
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