What would it sound like if a foreigner wrote a novel in broken English? Foer answers this question to marvelous effect in his inspired though uneven first novel. Much of the book is narrated by Ukrainian student Alex Perchov, whose hilarious and, in their own way, pitch-perfect malapropisms flourish under the influence of a thesaurus. Alex works for his family's travel agency, which caters to Jews who want to explore their ancestral shtetls. Jonathan Safran Foer, the novel's other hero, is such a Jew an American college student looking for the Ukrainian woman who hid his grandfather from the Nazis. He, Alex, Alex's depressive grandfather and his grandfather's "seeing-eye bitch" set out to find the elusive woman. Alex's descriptions of this "very rigid search" and his accompanying letters to Jonathan are interspersed with Jonathan's own mythical history of his grandfather's shtetl. Jonathan's great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Brod is the central figure in this history, which focuses mostly on the 18th and 19th centuries. Though there are some moments of demented genius here, on the whole the historical sections are less assured. There's a whiff of kitsch in Foer's jolly cast of pompous rabbis, cuckolded usurers and sharp-tongued widows, and the tone wavers between cozy ethnic humor, heady pontification and sentimental magic-realist whimsy. Nonetheless, Foer deftly handles the intricate story-within-a-story plot, and the layers of suspense build as the shtetl hurtles toward the devastation of the 20th century while Alex and Jonathan and Grandfather close in on the object of their search. An impressive, original debut. (Apr. 16) Forecast: Eagerly awaited since an excerpt was featured in the New Yorker's 2001 "Debut Fiction" issue, Everything Is Illuminated comes reasonably close to living up to the hype. Rights have so far been sold in 12 countries, the novel is a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and a main selection of Traditions Book Club, and Foer will embark on an author tour expect lively sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This highly imaginative debut novel features a protagonist with the same name as the author. The fictional Jonathan Safran Foer, also a writer, travels to Eastern Europe after his junior year in college. His mission, as he ventures through the farmlands, is to find Augustine, who may have saved the grandfather he never knew from the Nazis. Accompanying Jonathan on his quixotic quest is Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks hilariously fractured English. The fabled history of his grandfather's shtetl, or village, is juxtaposed with events in the present using comedy interspersed with tragedy. Generations become united across time in this fanciful tale, as Foer, the author, gives the reader a contemporary version of 19th-century Jewish drama one that blends laughter and tears. Recommended for all libraries. Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Comedy and pathos are braided together with extraordinary skill in a haunting debut, a tale that depicts, with riveting intensity and originality, a young Jewish American writer's search for his family's European roots. Three stories are told therein: that of 20-year-old college student Jonathan Safran Foer's journey (in 1997) to the Ukraine in search of "Augustine," the woman rumored to have saved his grandfather from the Nazis; Jonathan's novel-in-progress, a fictional history of Trachimbrod, the Polish shtetl where his ancestors settled in the late 18th century; and letters written to Foer by his Ukrainian guide and translator Alex Perchov, an imperturbable Americanophile who boasts that he's "fluid" in English (in fact, he mangles it as memorably as Mrs. Malaprop) and blithely rearranges all his employer's plans. The seriocomic, partly surreal picture of life in Trachimbrod begins in fine magical-realist form with the story of a newborn baby who inexplicably survives when her father's wagon tumbles into the Brod River (for which she'll be named) and he drowns. Thereafter, Foer keeps the reader both hooked and pleasingly disoriented, as the narrative careens between Jonathan's sedulous exploration of "the dream that we are our fathers" and Alex's ingenuous accounts of their travels, undertaken in the company of his bilious Grandfather and an amorous canine bitch called Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior. The aged Augustine is (or perhaps is not) found, horrific tales of Nazi atrocities and of a bitter legacy of apostasy, betrayal, and guilt gradually unfold-and "illumination"-is ironically achieved, as these several stories fuse together. Summary would mislead, as interlocking revelations arethe story's core: suffice it to say that at its overpowering climax, the river where it all began "speaks"-before another voice adds an even more passionate, plaintive coda. Beauty from ashes. And a vibrant response to Jonathan's grim aphorism "The novel is the art form that burns most easily." Not this novel.
“Not since Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange has the English language been simultaneously mauled and energized with such brilliance and such brio.” — Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review, Notable Books of 2002 “Read it, and you’ll feel altered, chastened—seared in the fire of something new.” — Washington Post “Comedy and pathos are braided together with extraordinary skill in a haunting debut . . . riveting intensity and originality.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review “A certified wunderkind at twenty-five . . . a funny, moving . . . deeply felt novel about the dangers of confronting the past and the redemption that comes with laughing at it, even when that seems all but impossible.” — Time “It's wonderful to think that the very young Jonathan Safran Foer . . . can be writing so well and with such lofty aspriation. It will be wonderful if he writes many more books.” — Adam Begley, New York Observer “A book that illuminates so much with such odd and original beauty.” — Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine “[A] dazzling literary high-wire act . . . brilliant . . . The payoff is extraordinary: a fearless, acrobatic, ultimately haunting effort.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times “[An] enormously impressive first novel . . . Everything is illuminated, indeed, by this talented artist’s furious, glorious starburst of prose.” — Dan Cryer, Newsday “Maybe two or three times in a lifetime, a book transcends its genre to become experience. Everything Is Illuminated is an event of this order.” — Dorothea Strauss, Baltimore Sun “A zestfully imagined novel of wonders both magical and mundane . . . He will win your admiration, and he will break your heart.” — Joyce Carol Oates “Extraordinarily gifted . . . this young man also happens to possess something approaching wisdom. Don’t just check him out. Read him.” — Russell Banks “It is one of the best novels I’ve ever been fortunate enough to hold in my hands.” — Dale Peck “One of the most impressive first novels in a long time . . . this book is, as its name implies, brilliant.” — Adrienne Miller, Esquire “Madcap virtuosity . . . takes big risks but reaps big rewards, affirming the human spirit in such profoundly triumphant fashion . . .” — Don McCleese, MSNBC.com “J. S. Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated is a novel intricate in structure, fantastical in its story, and irreverent in a hundred different ways.” — Nathan Englander “A writer of magnificent energy and obvious talent.” — Newark Star-Ledger “Everything Is Illuminated is often brilliant.” — San Francisco Chronicle “[A] stunning debut . . . So put off your plans to write the next Great American Novel—Foer’s beaten you to it.” — Maxim “Without a doubt, Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel, Everything Is Illuminated, establishes him as one of the best young novelists around . . . A generosity of vision that is one of the true marks of a great writer.” — Time Out New York “Have you ever found, after finishing a completely awesome book, that you have so many competing impulses about what to do next that you become frozen by excitement? That is how I feel right now. One thing I want to do . . . is tell every single one of my friends that I have just finished reading Everything Is Illuminated, an amazingly funny, adventuruous and powerful novel . . . I was dumbstruck with amazement and joy.” — Vancouver Sun “He has given us a deeply resonant work that could only be the first great American Jewish novel of the twenty-first century.” — Jewish Daily Forward “Foer has written a glittering first novel . . . with great humor, sympathy, charm and daring. Every page is illuminated.” — Jeffrey Eugenides “Everything is Illuminated is not only an extraordinary addition to novels about the Holocaust, but also the most impressive first novel I've read in years.” — Sanford Pinsker, Hadassah Magazine “A rambunctious tour de force of inventive and intelligent storytelling . . . Foer can place his reader’s hand on the heart of human experience, the transcendent beauty of human connections. Read, you can feel the life beating.” — Philadelphia Inquirer “Inventive, boisterous.” — Memphis Commercial Appeal