March Meetup [War and Travel]: Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything Is Illuminated

It was tense, but finally we have a winner :) And the winner is:


Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything Is Illuminated (2002)

Guardian Description:
Foer's novel won the Guardian first book award and praise from John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates. Others have been deeply irritated by this story of a young American Jew who visits Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. What do they hate so much? Chiefly the American's local guide (and co-narrator) Alex, whose already shaky English is dangerously loosened by the gift of a thesaurus. "In Russian," as Alex puts it, "my ideas are asserted abnormally well, but my second tongue is not so premium." Oh, and there's a farting dog.
Phil Daoust

Amazon Review:

The simplest thing would be to describe Everything 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 bitch, 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 and Latka from the US television series Taxi. (Sentences such as "It is mammoth honour for me write for a writer, especially when he is American writer, like Ernest Hemingway"; "It is bad and popular habit for people in Ukraine to take things without asking" are the norm.) Interspersed between these letters are fragments of a novel by "Safran Foer"--a wonderfully imagined, almost magical realist, account of life in the Shetl 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. Admittedly he has an annoying habit of capitalising great chunks of text, but minor typographical nuances are easy to ignore in a book that combines some of the best Jewish folk yarns since Isaac Bashevis Singer with a quite heartbreaking meditation on love, friendship and loss. --Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

'An astonishing feat' The Times

About the Author
Jonathan Safran Foer was born in 1977 and lives in Queens, New York. He is the editor of the anthology A CONVERGENCE OF BIRDS, which Hamish Hamilton will publish in 2004 alongside his second novel, THE ZELNIK MUSEUM.

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  • Ben H.

    Really enjoyed last night; like Graham, it was my first meeting - everyone was friendly and the discussion really stimulating. Thanks a lot. Looking forward to 'Lucky Jim' next month. Ben.

    1 · March 13, 2013

    • Anne

      That's great Ben :) We do like fresh faces and we really are grateful to all who came & made it such a great night. We look forward to seeing you for Lucky Jim :)

      March 13, 2013

  • Graham P.

    So that's it, my first book club meeting...ever. Enjoyed the company and the thought provoking discussions, by nature I'm a quiet character and like to listen and mull things over. I feel I've benefitted from the experience and actually now have a more positive view about this book, although can't honestly say I'd place it in my own personal top 1000.
    However, that said, I think I might just read it again this weekend keeping in mind the observations of the group tonight before moving on to next month's choice. Thank you.

    1 · March 12, 2013

    • Anne

      Really glad you enjoyed it Graham & thanks again for coming. We look forward to seeing you again for next months book :)

      March 13, 2013

  • Lorraine

    Hello my fellow book worms - I am so sorry but my flight home was cancelled so now I will not be back in time for club! So sad as really liked this book and often giggled out loud as reading it! Enjoy the debate and see you at Aprils grpup

    March 12, 2013

  • Ahmad

    I'm really buzy on this day, probably next time.

    March 11, 2013

  • Terri

    Sorry, not feeling well.

    March 11, 2013

  • Richard I.

    Sorry for last-minute change, I trust you'll all find illumination without my help.

    March 11, 2013

  • Billie T.

    I'm looking forward to next Tues. I have a feeling the group will be divided with this book - always makes for some great conversation.

    March 5, 2013

  • Ahmad

    Yes I want attend and conversation with the members

    March 4, 2013

  • Ben H.

    Really looking forward to meeting everyone - should be lots of fun

    March 2, 2013

  • Laura S.

    Doubled booked for this date sadly!

    February 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry can't make it

    February 24, 2013

  • Moomin

    Sorry! JSF really grates me for some reason!!! :)

    1 · February 22, 2013

  • Joe

    This'll be my first time - and what a fantastic book for it!

    February 13, 2013

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