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Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 2003
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If all this sounds a little daunting, don't be put off; Safran Foer is an extremely funny as well as intelligent writer who combines some of the best Jewish folk yarns since Isaac Bashevis Singer with a quite heartbreaking meditation on love, friendship, and loss. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The book's narrative is inventive, mildly funny (depending on your sense of humor) and occasionally even strewn with streaks of universal wisdom. But some of Foer's devices of story telling seem a little, er, affected.
The lead-in into the novel is a bit wobbly and I took time to warm up to the goings-on -- in reality, the it is a tapestry of SEVERAL stories, the prime theme being one of a young American Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer (eponymous as the author, note) who travels to the Ukraine searching for the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis in 1941. We read of his search through the eyes of his Ukrainian guide and translator, Alex, whose imperfect English provides comic relief.
Part of the story of Jonathan's search is told in straightforward prose, but part is told through letters from Alex. Other stories are told in dreams or in plays. Concurrently, we also get the story of several of Jonathan's forbears, going as far back as 1791.
Much of the novel's humor stems from Alex's under-developed English and his posturing antics. Such comic relief is deft, but the all too frequent flights of lyricism stink of affectation to me, not of staggeringly impressive command of language or anything. Foer is no Wodehouse, not yet.
Everything Is Illuminated is ultimately more of an experience than a book, an episodic, thoughtful and rewarding work. But perhaps you may want to start with a fresh slate instead of a baggage of high expectations, a mistake I made. It is not worthy of a pedestal, but definitely worth a read if only for the sheer boldness of the narrative. Pick it up!
The rest of the novel, however, is taken up with an aggressive array of flashy modern narrative devices - magic realism, hysterical realism, Jewish confession etc., all of which blast the reader with great 'look at me' demonstrations of the writer's virtuosity, but lack any sense of pacing, rhythm, balance and poise.
The principal gripe I have with modern novels such as this, is that in such a competitive, overcrowded market, young writers feel pressured to burst out with something dazzling and innovative, often invoking a range of literary techniques (as Foer does) without really understanding how they can be used most effectively. If the New York publishing scene was less preoccupied with hyping up flashy new bestsellers, and let talented young writers develop slowly, modern novels might have a chance to display some of the quiet literary inspiration that is the hallmark of past masterpieces.
Jonathan Safran Foer, a character bearing the same name as the author, is looking for the woman he believes saved his grandfather Safran from the Nazis. Traveling to the Ukraine, he meets Alex Perchov, a young man representing a Ukrainian travel agency which specializes in taking tourists to the sites of vanished shetls. Alex, a not-quite-fluent translator, and his "blind" grandfather, who serves as the driver, travel with Jonathan to the site of Trachimbrod, his family's village, collecting stories and legends which will help Jonathan learn about his family and his Ukrainian Jewish heritage.
Parts of the book are a bit sophomoric. (How many farting dog jokes does one need? And do we really need to know the details of Grandfather Safran's 132 mistresses?) The fictional Jonathan's letters and comments as he writes a novel about his trip are an artificial device for dealing, perhaps, with the author's uncertainties and/or heading off criticism, while the chapters he includes for Alex's review, are, of course, the actual chapters of this book. And Alex's misuse of language, while often very funny, begins to pall after numerous repetitions.Read more ›
In a way Foer was betrayed by the very reviewers who were somersaulting backwards in order to help him. I was expecting the book to be utterly hilarious but the effect fizzled because the reviewers had already related the best jokes. He was betrayed by them also in the sense that they built such unreasonable expectations into the minds of readers that it would be difficult not to disappoint. Foer only adds to the trouble through his hyper-ambitious title. No, everything is NOT illuminated by reading this book. The themes are a recycling of things I've heard before, very often in places like Hollywood movies. To praise the virtues of love and compassion is not illuminating: it may be true, but it is not new. Foer has his heart in the right place, but that may be part of the problem. I get the sense that he is trying too hard to please. There is nothing wrong with giving your reader pleasure (God knows so few writers even know how) but in order truly to illuminate, in order to allow the reader to walk away with his world in some way changed, one must be ready to challenge, and perhaps even, to insult. Perhaps the success of this novel will embolden Foer to take off the kid gloves and hit us hard the way that, say, Philip Roth does.
I don't agree with the reviewers who complained that Alex's English is either unrealistic ("no Ukranian would speak English that way") or offensive.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I will have to read this over and over to understand all its layers, or at least attempt to understand. Read morePublished 25 days ago by E. Demmert
I loved this book. A bit obtuse in the beginning and I wondered if I was going to miss something in the history, but Safran wove together a wonderful story, seamlessly flipping... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jennifer Thomson
I had a hard time following what was going on in the beginning of this book but as I continued to read I learned the language of the story. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Goldenpix
I do have a soft spot for this book because of the movie and as I read I couldn't help but feel Eugene Hutz gave an incredible performance based on this character. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Alyssa
First off, I have never written a review in my life but this book was an exception. I couldn't even finish this book no matter how hard I tried. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Pretentious, boring, writing techniques that call attention to each other... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Carolyn Day
This is one of those novels that I think I may have to read a number of times to really get everything. Read morePublished 3 months ago by EpicFehlReader