The World to Come

( 19 )

Overview

"Nothing short of amazing."—Entertainment Weekly
A million-dollar Chagall is stolen from a museum during a singles' cocktail hour. The unlikely thief, former child prodigy Benjamin Ziskind, is convinced that the painting once hung in his parents' living room. This work of art opens a door through which we discover his family's startling history—from an orphanage in Soviet Russia where Chagall taught to suburban New Jersey and the jungles of ...

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The World to Come: A Novel

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Overview

"Nothing short of amazing."—Entertainment Weekly
A million-dollar Chagall is stolen from a museum during a singles' cocktail hour. The unlikely thief, former child prodigy Benjamin Ziskind, is convinced that the painting once hung in his parents' living room. This work of art opens a door through which we discover his family's startling history—from an orphanage in Soviet Russia where Chagall taught to suburban New Jersey and the jungles of Vietnam.

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Editorial Reviews

Time
“A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny-sad meditation on how the past haunts the present—and how we haunt the future.”
Newsday
Symphonic and piercingly beautiful . . . the novel suspends us between emotions, never allowing any to become predominant, and we hang there in that indeterminate space, perfectly happy, hoping that the book will never end.— Bethany Scneider
Wall Street Journal
Brilliantly imagined.— Merle Rubin
Washington Post
Deeply sympathetic characters, an encyclopedic grasp of 20th-century history and a spiritual sense that sees through the conventional barriers between this life and the one to come—or the one before.— Ron Charles
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Horn’s deft touch is often wryly funny—but never maliciously so. . . . An accomplished work that beautifully explains how families—in all their maddening, smothering, supportive glory—create us.— Natalie Danford
Time Magazine
“A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny-sad meditation on how the past haunts the present—and how we haunt the future.”
Newsday - Bethany Scneider
“Symphonic and piercingly beautiful . . . the novel suspends us between emotions, never allowing any to become predominant, and we hang there in that indeterminate space, perfectly happy, hoping that the book will never end.”
Wall Street Journal - Merle Rubin
“Brilliantly imagined.”
Washington Post - Ron Charles
“Deeply sympathetic characters, an encyclopedic grasp of 20th-century history and a spiritual sense that sees through the conventional barriers between this life and the one to come—or the one before.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Natalie Danford
“Horn’s deft touch is often wryly funny—but never maliciously so. . . . An accomplished work that beautifully explains how families—in all their maddening, smothering, supportive glory—create us.”
Bethany Scneider - Newsday
“Symphonic and piercingly beautiful . . . the novel suspends us between emotions, never allowing any to become predominant, and we hang there in that indeterminate space, perfectly happy, hoping that the book will never end.”
Merle Rubin - Wall Street Journal
“Brilliantly imagined.”
Ron Charles - Washington Post
“Deeply sympathetic characters, an encyclopedic grasp of 20th-century history and a spiritual sense that sees through the conventional barriers between this life and the one to come—or the one before.”
Natalie Danford - Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Horn’s deft touch is often wryly funny—but never maliciously so. . . . An accomplished work that beautifully explains how families—in all their maddening, smothering, supportive glory—create us.”
Lev Grossman - Time
“A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny-sad meditation on how the past haunts the present—and how we haunt the future.”
Julia Livshin - Chicago Tribune
“This book is the real thing.”
Ron Charles
Horn writes about theology and moral imperatives and the afterlife -- as though she didn't realize that such things just aren't done in sophisticated literary prose. But that daring is endearing, especially when it flows from deeply sympathetic characters, an encyclopedic grasp of 20th-century history and a spiritual sense that sees through the conventional barriers between this life and the one to come -- or the one before.
— The Washington Post
Susann Cokal
… the book succeeds, in part because Horn gracefully plays off certain words and images, using them as touchstones and leitmotifs: the title phrase and the Chagall painting; the recurring references to wombs, caves, bridges and the dents that angels supposedly leave beneath our noses. Little connections leap the narrative gaps and draw story lines together. Throughout this rich, complex and haunting novel, Horn reminds us that our world poses constant threats to the artist and to art, to the individual and the creative spirit. Their very survival is a miracle: in a sense, every one of us is that bearded man flying, unaware, over Vitebsk.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Former child prodigy Ben Ziskind-5'6", 123 pounds and legally blind-steals a Marc Chagall painting at the end of an alienating singles cocktail hour at a local museum, determined to prove that its provenance is tainted and that it belongs to his family. With surety and accomplishment, Horn (In the Image) telescopes out into Ziskind's familial history through an exploration of Chagall's life; that of Chagall's friend the Yiddish novelist Der Nister; 1920s Soviet Russia and its horrific toll on Russian Jews; the nullifying brutality of Vietnam (where Ben's father, Daniel, served a short, terrifying stint); and the paradoxes of American suburbia, a place where native Ben feels less at home than the teenage Soviet refugee Leonid Shcharansky. Ben's relationship with his pregnant twin sister, Sara, a painter who eventually tries to render a forgery of the painting to return to the museum, is a damply compelling exposition of what it means to have someone biologically close but emotionally distant. Horn, born in 1977, expertly handles subplots and digressions, neatly bringing in everything from Yiddish lore to Nebuchadnezzar, Da Nang, the Venice Biennale, recent theories of child development, brutal Soviet politics and Daniel's job as a writer for fictional TV show American Genius. Characters like Erica Frank, of the Museum of Hebraic Art, give tart glimpses into still-claustrophobic Goodbye, Columbus territory, which Horn then unites with a much grander place that furnishes the book's title. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Horn's accomplished second novel (after the award-winning In the Image) reads like a dynamic hybrid of Nicole Krauss's The History of Love and Milan Kundera's philosophical flights of fancy. It is an artful exploration of a Jewish American family's Eastern European roots, a rumination on forgery in art, and an inventive exploration of the work of Chagall and the forgotten writings of his Russian compatriots. Finding himself alone after his divorce and his mother's recent death, Ben Ziskind distracts himself with work, crafting questions for a TV quiz show. When he decides to steal a Chagall painting that once belonged to his mother, his actions shake him from his hermetic shell. Flashbacks to Ben's past and to the lives of Chagall and his one-time novelist friend, the Hidden One, merge together. Horn deftly weaves an intricate story steeped in folklore and family secrets. Along the way, readers are offered glimpses of the possibilities, allegorical and otherwise, of life's beginning and end. This is intelligent, compelling literary fiction; recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/05.]-Misha Stone, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A heist with a twist, Horn's engaging second novel (after In the Image, 2003) explores the history behind a stolen painting as well as the saga of the family that owned it for nearly a century. Recognizing it from his childhood living room, Benjamin Ziskind, a socially awkward quizmaster, lifts a million-dollar Chagall during a museum cocktail hour. We quickly learn that the master painter once taught art to Ben's grandfather in a bleak Russian orphanage in the 1920s. The piece, a sketch for the famed Over Vitebsk, was a gift from the artist to his young pupil. Of additional intrigue to the museum and eventually to Ben are a series of stories written by a legendary Yiddish author (and Chagall's onetime neighbor) that are hidden in the painting's frame. As Ben is pursued-not by the police, oddly enough, but by Erica Frank, a museum staff member-Horn shuttles readers through three generations of the Ziskind family, loosely following the painting as it changes hands, crosses an ocean and withstands enormous turmoil. The family history, and Ben's own covert investigation of the painting's place within it, uncovers questions of authenticity on multiple levels and leaves him (along with his twin sister and accomplice Sara) with a heavy moral decision to make. Despite the vast oscillations in time and place, the story is remarkably coherent, and it is only in the last 50 pages that Horn runs out of gas. The romance that buds between Ben and Erica is trite and seems tacked on to the otherwise finely crafted tale. And the author's reliance on symbolism and doubles, which is subtly effective throughout, becomes unwieldy. After an appealing journey into the past, Horn should have left her readers inthe present-rather, her final chapter is a confusing and corny look into "the world to come."An engrossing adventure, in spite of its flaws. Fans of art and Judaic studies will particularly enjoy this well-researched work.
From the Publisher
"A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny-sad meditation on how the past haunts the present—-and how we haunt the future." —-Time
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393329063
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/9/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 265,926
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dara Horn

Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    Imaginitive, but....

    On one level, I liked this book very much. I enjoyed the Yiddish, the Jewish folk tales and legends, and became interested in the story of the real characters. And then, just when the story seemed to be reaching a resolution, what? The description of the world to come was interesting and very imaginative, but I would have liked to know more about the real characters. . Yes, as the author says, life doesn't always giveyou endings, sometimes you don't know what happens, but this is a work of fiction, and you do expect some ending, some resolution. Ultimately, I found this to be like a tasty, creative meal that was, in the end, unsatisfying.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A unique story and a unique look at life

    Dara Horn takes a real incident, the theft of a Chagall piece of art and blends a multi-generation story of life, love, death, and birth. Using this incident as the framework, the story takes a spiritual journey as it explores the antisemitism of Russia of the early 20th century. The story travels from Russia to a museum in New York exploring the real life impact of the Chagall work of art. This is an exciting and thought-provoking read.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    Unique

    I found this audio book very entertaining and unique. Dara Horn has quite an imagination.

    SPA

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A great read and a meaningful gift!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. It can be enjoyed in so many ways: as a mystery based on the theft of a work of art, as a family saga, as an examination of the meaning and purpose of our lives, on the nature and sources of art. And yet Horn's novel has a unique integrity of its own. A great read and a meaningful gift!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2007

    Interesting and thoughtful

    I sat on the fence for almost the entire book, mostly due to the fact that it skipped around and I had trouble seeing how certain story lines related to the main one. However, the characters were so interesting that I had to keep going. For me, the last section of the book really brought it all together and made the book worth my while. The author's interpretation of paradise before birth (vs. after death) was absolutely fascinating, her vision regarding what happens to loved ones when they die (they become the ones who shape their future, unborn descendants' souls before birth), should be a comfort to anyone who has lost someone. Apparently the author pulled from a lot of Hebrew folklore and literature, and it made me want to read more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2007

    Mystical!

    The World to Come is a facinating book, great stories. I was able to get involved in the characters and their lives inmidiately, I was sorry to when I got to the last chapter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2006

    Wonderful Read

    There are times when I find a book that has taken me to a world I'm happy to be in and this was one of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2006

    A Richly Rewarding Read

    Dara Horn is to be thanked for a truly outstanding work. 'THE WORLD TO COME' is a reflection of remarkable insight ... moving, inspiring as well as informative. A book that is as imagiinative and revealing as a painting by Marc Chagall (one of its real-life characters).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2006

    A masterpiece of great historical fiction!

    Wow, this is the best book I¿ve read in months! The writing is masterful and so imaginative. The plot revolves around a piece of art, a¿sketch¿ for the well known Chagall painting, Over Vitebsk, and how it was an integral part of the history of the Ziskind family. How they came to own it, how it was ultimately stolen from them and how present day Ben Ziskind, remembering the painting, steals it from the museum. There are stories within stories but the author is so skillful it all fits together in a patchwork of a family¿s history, loves and losses. The characters are unique and well drawn. Glimpses of the artist Chagall as well as a legendary Yiddish author bring more interest to the story. The brutality of the Russia soldiers in the early 1920¿s and an inside look at a bleak orphanage enlighten as well as shock the reader. A definite 5, great for any lover of literature.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2006

    Magical and brilliant with so much philosophy and truth!

    I learned so much about Marc Chagall's art, Yiddish literature and life in Stalinist Russia from this book. All this, while thoroughly enjoying Dara Horn's imaginitive prose, colorful and quirky (but realistic) characters and suspenseful plot. For those who would be disappointed by the ending, remember Der Nister's words on p. 38, 'How is that not a 'real ending'? There are no real endings in life, either. Since when do things end?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2009

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    Posted October 23, 2011

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    Posted February 7, 2009

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    Posted July 20, 2011

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    Posted December 4, 2009

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    Posted January 12, 2009

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    Posted October 4, 2010

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    Posted November 26, 2008

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    Posted November 13, 2008

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