The World to Come

The World to Come

4.1 22
by Dara Horn
     
 

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"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

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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.

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:
10/09/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
716,560
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

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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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