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After Hardcover – September, 1996

3.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Should any writer?especially a Jewish writer?have the temerity to depict the Holocaust and its survivors with irreverent irony and sardonic humor? The answer in the case of Bukiet's explosive, iconoclastic new novel (after the praised short story collection While the Messiah Tarries) is an enthusiastic yes. Bukiet's unsentimental portrait of a motley group of concentration camp survivors who manage to thrive in post-WWII Europe thanks to camp-acquired skills of chicanery, manipulation and inspired opportunism is a tour de force. Both farce and adventure story, a chronicle of suffering and a manual for survival, it is funny and heartbreaking and thought-provoking at once. Meeting by chance after liberation, 19-year-old wheeler-dealer extraordinaire Isaac Kaufman (freed from Aspenfeld, a subcamp of Buchenwald); dentist/forger Marcus Morgenstern (Dachau); bad luck-prone rabbinic scholar Fishl (Mauthausen) and sundry others concoct a variety of get-rich schemes using black market items. Progressing from ID cards to vodka, ball bearings and cigarettes, ringleader Isaac finally discovers a veritable mountain of gold: 18 tons of fillings extracted by the Nazis from Jewish victims, and stored by the Allies in plain sight. Isaac's plan to acquire the treasure?and its ironic denouement?is the culmination of a series of dangerous adventures involving comic pratfalls, miraculous reunions, sudden betrayals and lightning changes of fortune. (There's even a touch of magic realism in the mysterious appearances of Isaac's brother Alter, a master of disguises and perhaps a latter-day messianic savior.) The galloping narrative includes a surreal poker game aboard a yacht in the seas off Germany that is an allegory of the post-war world, and it culminates in a scene that will move readers to helpless laughter mixed with tears. Meanwhile, Bukiet has dared to ask the essential question: What kind of a God would bring such pain to his Chosen People? and to answer it in his own inimitable fashion. Bukiet's mordant humor and insight into human character are matched by his audacity and hyperbolic imagination. It's an incandescent mix.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The war is over, the camps liberated, and the Jews?"awesome in death, puny in triumph"?are once more cast upon the wind. Refusing all help from do-gooding institutions like the Joint Distribution Committee, young Isaac Kaufman sets out to make a fortune fast so that he can get to America. Soon the unscrupulous Kaufman has his own gang (survivors all) and, with the help of a brother who appears mysteriously throughout like a guardian angel, is making a fortune off counterfeit cigarettes. But he's taken in the hapless Fischl, a devout Jew who perpetually flubs his assignments. When Kaufman schemes to steal gold extracted from the teeth of murdered Jews, Fischl is there to prevent the sacrilege. If Fischl represents the conscience of Jews, Isaac represents their tenacity, and he is an appealing character despite it all. The humor couldn't be blacker, the action is tightly plotted, and the effect is like being hit with cold water. Bukiet (While the Messiah Tarries, LJ, 4/1/95) apparently intended to shock us into thinking, and it worked. For most collections.?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (September 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312145365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312145361
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,247,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Melvin Jules Bukiet has to be one of the most promising young writers around, based on the evidence of this book. I would love to say that it's as good as some of its promotion would suggest and that it accomplishes both of the things it has obviously set out to do: one, to write a realistic post-Holocaust novel with survivors as complex characters rather than symbols; two, to parody the genre of Holocaust literature, not in a spirit of cruelty but one of insight. It would seem to be almost impossible to do both at once, which is probably why "After" does not quite come off as either a novel or a satire. The heavy cultural symbolism which Bukiet is trying to send up ends up weighing down his characters to the point where--with one very significant exception--they stop being real people. The satire is also self-indulgent: one is never quite sure whether it is aimed at the reality of the Holocaust (which has, incidentally, received at least six "comic" treatments before this one), or at the serious literature of the Holocaust, or some of the more vulgar conventions of popular culture. The resulting book is something of a jumble, and seems to resort to current postmodern cliches more out of desperation than to make a statement. This is a real pity, because Bukiet is a spectacularly talented writer and could have written one of the great books of the century if he had been able to focus his material somewhat better. The best evidence of his talent lies in his fictional portrait of Elie Wiesel as "Der Schreiber." Subtle, compassionate enough to be brutal (and vice versa), and deeply insightful, it alone is worth the price of the book; it is worthy of such a master of real-life irony as Satyajit Ray, and calls to mind Ray's film "Devi" (with an added twist).Read more ›
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By A Customer on August 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The author tells a story well, but also plays with the reader. Several times you will stop, scratch your head and ask,"Was that directed to me?...and then the story continues. I loved the cynicism or blind faith (in anything) of the various characters and the slow corrosion thereof. The subject matter is facinating and rarely explored. Best of all, this is not a sappy, emotional story, actually, quite the opposite. When a holocaust story makes you laugh, it should be explored
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Format: Paperback
re Mr. Bukiet? having listened to a commentary on the grt documentary abtr Auschwitz from KCET and BBC-

did I miss something?

Mr. B says we learn nothing from the Holocaust- it teaches us nothing?
Where is he coming from?

My take is: the following from the film on Auschwitz by KCET and BBC with commentary by meself.
I was born in 1941. Of the 7,000 nazis and others employed at Auschwitz, only some 800 were ever tried for their war crimes.
1 million, 300 thousand were sent to Auschwitz. (abrev Aus)- 1 million, 100 thousand died there: hundreds of Jehovah's witnesses, homosexuals and other minorities; 15, 000 soviet pows; 21,000 gypsies; 70,000 polish political prisoners; 1 million Jews- 200, 000 of which were children.
From a survivor: "In this photograph, I recognize my Aunt- her name was Yolan Waldstein and her 4 children: Doree, 10, Irving, 8, Judith, 2 and the baby Naomi- 2.
It's such an incredible, shattering feeling to recognize somebody you love- to see the way they looked minutes before they entered the crematorium."
Reasons given for the murders?: Jews a buzz word- Germans need find a scapegoat for WW 1 and their other troubles; Jews live in cities- some own dept. stores; if they are gone, we can take their stuff; many of the nazis interviewed state that they believed what they did was right (whereas Japanese gave following I had to follow orders as a reason for murder, and Russians gave the rationale of- "an enemy of the people").
Many of the nazis interviewed ask- how about the bombings of Dresden or Hiroshima- as if this were comparable to Auschwitz; but these indiscriminate bombings were to end a war.
as to the few survivors? Human beings can get used to anything..
to prevent genocidal governments?
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
With After, Melvin Bukiet has expanded the realm of Holocaust literature to include the struggle following release from the concentration camps. Liberated by milk-fed Americans after years of torture, the main characters find that surviving the camps was not enough.
In the bizarre setting of post-WWII Germany, Bukiet weaves a funny, dark, and fantastic world, the very improbability of which is matched brilliantly by his characters' improbable, but ingenius, methods of taking back what was taken from them
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Format: Paperback
I like the premise of this book, a black comedy about the Holocaust, however, it never quite jelled into an good read for me. The book starts right as the war is ending and American tanks are rolling in to liberate concentration camps. A few odd survivors make their way across this bizarre landscape, meet up, and form a "gang." Through forgery and trading, they turn into rich men by cynically working both the system and the black market that arises with the fall of the Nazis. Everything is a buildup though, for the big score, a 4 x 4 foot cube of gold extracted from the mouths of Jewish prisoners. Along the way, there are all kinds of oddballs and kooks running around and sincere, naive people to be exploited. None of this is as funny as it's made out to be, however. The book is interesting for the unsentimental look it takes at the time and place, but it takes a little to long to accomplish that task.
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