Praise for Hope: A Tragedy
“Staggeringly nervy… Other fiction writers have gotten this fresh with Anne Frank. But they don’t get much funnier… [Auslander] is an absurdist with a deep sense of gravitas. He brings to mind Woody Allen, Joseph Heller and – oxymoron here – a libido-free version of Philip Roth… It’s a tall order for Mr. Auslander to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation. Yet Hope: A Tragedy succeeds shockingly well.” – New York Times
“Shalom Auslander is my kind of Jew — an unapologetically paranoid, guilt-ridden, self-loathing Diaspora kvetch, enraged by a God he can’t live with or without. While others of his generation may mine the tradition for a fond retrieval of forgotten lore, Auslander throws stones at the fiddler on the roof. He’s a black comic who’s alloyed the manic existential shtick of Lenny Bruce with the gallows humor that’s been a staple of the repertoire since the Babylonian Exile…. He is patently not good for the Jews…. A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.” – New York Times Book Review
“Absurdist, hilarious … Part Sholom Aleichem, part Woody Allen, part homage to Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, it is a story of neurotic Jews, the problem of memory and the solace of suffering. "It's funny," begins the novel, and it is…. To hope, we must misremember. So we build structures of misremembering: We build fictions. Auslander's first novel, Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel is a beautiful one.” Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An irreverent (and how!), dark (to say the least), hilarious novel about a man who finds a beloved historical figure hiding in his attic.” O, the Oprah Magazine
“A caustic comic tour de force.” NPR
“There is an admirable fearlessness to Shalom Auslander’s writing . . . [His] ruminations and his clever inversions of conventional wisdom can challenge readers to re-examine opinions they probably take for granted, particularly regarding how the history of the Holocaust is remembered and taught.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“Scabrously funny…. Willfully outrageous, a black humorist with an Old Testament moralist’s heart… Angry, funny, shocking even, writing that strips away the niceties” – Los Angeles Times
“Poisonously funny…. Like an unintentional bark of laughter at a funeral.” – Entertainment Weekly
“The real tragedy would be to miss out on [this] debut novel, brimming with dark humor.” Entertainment Weekly’s Must List
“Blends tragedy, comedy and satire in the mold of Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka.” – Wall Street Journal
“Grimly comic… relentlessly entertaining.” – Boston Globe
“Very funny; there is something very Wile E. Coyote about the ridiculous oppression that pursues Kugel… Vivid and very hard to stop thinking about.” – Forward
“The darkest of dark comedies. It’s as uncomfortably hilarious as it is shockingly offensive… Equal parts Philip Roth and Franz Kafka.” – Columbus Dispatch
“Brilliant… [An] open space for Auslander’s wild talent for gorgeously timed staccato rhythms.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Hilariously bitter and gloriously insensitive.” – WSJ.com
“There are echoes of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and even Franz Kafka in this wildly original novel. And yet with Hope: A Tragedy, Auslander has created a story that’s uniquely his, with something in it to offend, enlighten and ultimately touch just about anyone.” BookPage
“Cultural anthropologists trying to figure out if there really is a recognizably Jewish voice and sense of humor, and if so, how it mixes and matches its key elements of self-deprecation, mordant compliance, hypochondria, and a total lack of surprise when disaster occurs, should consider Auslander’s debut novel….As funny as it is, the novel is also a philosophical treatise, a response—ambivalent, irreverent, and almost certainly offensive to some—to the question of whether art and life are possible after the Holocaust, an examination of how to ‘never forget’ without, as Kugel’s infamous attic occupant puts it, ‘never shutting up about it.’” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.
The New York Times Book Review
…staggeringly nervy…Other fiction writers have gotten this fresh with Anne Frank. But they don't get much funnier. Mr. Auslander…is neither a voyeur nor a romantic when it comes to conjuring Anne. He is an absurdist with a deep sense of gravitas. He brings to mind Woody Allen, Joseph Heller andoxymoron herea libido-free version of Philip Roth.
The New York Times
Cultural anthropologists trying to figure out if there really is a recognizably Jewish voice and sense of humor, and if so, how it mixes and matches its key elements of self-deprecation, mordant compliance, hypochondria, and a total lack of surprise when disaster occurs, should consider Auslander’s debut novel. The author’s memoir, Foreskin’s Lament, was about growing up in and leaving the Orthodox Jewish community; this novel’s hero, Solomon Kugel, isn’t observant, but he’s still locked into a relationship with a God he “could never believe in... but he could never not believe in, either.” And with a mother who insists she’s a Holocaust survivor, major money problems, a farmhouse that’s not only on the hit list of a local arsonist but also features an unwanted occupant in the attic, he’s fully immersed in what Philip Roth (an obvious influence, down to a shared obsession with Anne Frank) once called “the incredible drama of being a Jew.” Things start out hilarious and if the book wanes a bit as life keeps getting worse for Kugel, God’s plaything, that’s okay. As funny as it is, the novel is also a philosophical treatise, a response—ambivalent, irreverent, and almost certainly offensive to some—to the question of whether art and life are possible after the Holocaust, an examination of how to “never forget” without, as Kugel’s infamous attic occupant puts it, “never shutting up about it.” (Jan.)
Given his audaciously funny memoir, Foreskin's Lament (2007), it isn't surprising that Auslander's first novel is defiantly hilarious, but its riotous and downright sacrilegious satire wildly exceeds expectations...Along with its lacerating irreverence and tonic comedy of angst, Auslander's devilishly cunning, sure-to-be controversial novel poses profound questions about meaning, justice, truth, and responsibility.
Solomon Kugel is obsessed with death and what his last words will be. Having moved to the country for some peace and quiet, he discovers that he has a supposedly long-dead Holocaust victim living in his farmhouse attic. What's worse, he won't ask her to leave. He fears that as a Jew he will be ostracized for making a famous concentration camp victim homeless—never mind that he's discovered that the bad smell in the house is from her using the heating vents as her toilet. In this hilarious farce, we inhabit the musings of Kugel as he deals with what initially seems like a minor inconvenience in his home life. Soon, however, events spin out of control as he is injured, loses his job, and alienates his wife. VERDICT With underlying ghoulish humor—it's risky to engage lightheartedly with the Holocaust—Auslander provides a brisk narrative marked by a continuing parade of sharp, ironic asides as Kugel's life falls apart piece by piece. A darkly ambitious undertaking in absurdity that essentially mimics the problems of real life; recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 9/30/11.]—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA
A family man suffers from money woes, a judgmental spouse and a hectoring mother. But things don't get really funny until he discovers Anne Frank living in his attic. Auslander's debut novel is a scalding, uproarious satire that rejects the idea that the Holocaust can't be mined for comedy--he just knows that a book has to be very good to pull it off. The story's hero is Solomon Kugel, an eco-friendly–goods salesman who's moved his wife and toddler son to a rural Northeast town for some peace and quiet. No such luck: An arsonist is at large, the tenant they've taken on to help make ends meet won't stop complaining and Kugel's mother, supposedly at death's door with a terminal illness, isn't going anywhere. Indeed, she eagerly pursues her beloved hobby of imagining herself a Holocaust victim, slipping images of the death camps alongside family photos in scrapbooks. Investigating a tapping sound he hears in the ducts, Solomon discovers an elderly, sickly, foul-mouthed Anne Frank living in his attic, working on a sequel to her famous diary. The metaphor is punishingly obvious: The Holocaust is an unshakable, guilt-inducing fixture in the life of any self-aware Jew, and living with its legacy can be a burden. What's remarkable is how far Auslander (Beware of God, 2005, etc.) is willing to push the metaphor, and how much pathos he gets from the comedy. Lampshades, grim historical photographs and Alan Dershowitz are all the stuff of laugh-out-loud lines, and Solomon's therapist delivers statements that turn received wisdom on its head--utopia is dystopia, hope is tragic. Auslander's pithy, fast-moving prose emphasizes the comedy, but no attentive reader will misunderstand that he's respectful of the Holocaust's tragedy, only struggling to figure out how to live in its shadow. Brutal, irreverent and very funny. An honest-to-goodness heir to Portnoy's Complaint.