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The Ministry of Special Cases (Vintage International) Paperback – April 1, 2008
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More About the Author
His short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Post, as well as The O. Henry Prize Stories and numerous editions of The Best American Short Stories.
Translated into more than a dozen languages, Englander was selected as one of "20 Writers for the 21st Century" by The New Yorker, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He's been a fellow at the Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and at The American Academy of Berlin. He teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Hunter College along with Peter Carey and Colum McCann, and, in the summer, he teaches a course for NYU's Writers in Paris program.
This year, along with the publication of his new collection, Englander's play The Twenty-Seventh Man will premiere at The Public Theater, and his translation New American Haggadah (edited by Jonathan Safran Foer) will be published by Little Brown. He also co-translated Etgar Keret's Suddenly A Knock at the Door forthcoming in March from FSG. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and Madison, Wisconsin.
Top Customer Reviews
The search for their son leads Lillian to Argentina's Ministry of Special cases, where hundreds of people line up and fight for information about missing loved ones, and are frustrated by bureaucratic dead-ends. Worse than the government's unswerving apathy toward Kaddish and Lillian is the fearfully uncaring attitude that they find from general citizens they turn to for assistance. Everyone is too wrapped up in their own problems to care about the Poznan's plight - and much too afraid of losing their own family if they anger the government.Read more ›
When I began reading the book, I had to stop and start over. I couldn't believe what I was reading. It's almost as though Hamlet started with the grave digger's scene.
How can I summarize this book? I'm not sure I can do so accurately, but I'll hit some of the right notes of I call this book Don Quixote at The Trial. In the process, Mr. Englander unerringly portrays a society that's failing because each person only wants to look out for himself or herself.
You will find yourself in Argentina during the beginning of the "dirty war" when many young people disappeared. What would it like to be a parent of such a young person? That's what you will graphically experience by reading The Ministry of Special Cases.
Kaddish Poznan was conceived through an accident between his prostitute mother and a customer. The rabbi granted Kaddish such an unusual name in hopes it would protect him. As the book evolves, you'll see that the name has indeed shaped his character as well as his actions. Many of the "respectable" Jews in Argentina at the time had forbearers who also engaged in illicit and illegal activities, while sporting colorful names such as Hezzi Two-Blades.
Kaddish has been looking for the big score all of his life, but hasn't found it.Read more ›
One novel--the first half--is a family drama featuring Kaddish Poznan, who lives a blithely contented life as an outcast from Buenos Aires's "respectable" Jewish society and who hires himself out to upper-crust families who want to expunge the evidence of their less-than-reputable ancestors. Kaddish, a somewhat endearing buffoon always on the cusp of becoming rich (or so he thinks), lives with his long-suffering wife, Lillian, who provides her family with a more reliable source of income by working in an insurance office, and a son, Paco, a university student embarrassed by his father's uncouthness.
Englander has most often been compared to I. B. Singer, and with reason: Kaddish would feel right at home in a Polish shtetl or in an Upper West Side diner, and the familial strife is torn right from the pages of "The Family Moskat." Yet the conflict between father and son couldn't possibly lead more suddenly and seamlessly from what David Roskies has called the "demonic realism" of a Singer tale to the Kafkaesque terror in the second half of the book. Kaddish and Lillian are forced from the parochialism of their neighborhood into the claustrophobic hallways of a malicious bureaucracy and the dark-lit alleys of a frightened city. The familial nightmare rends Kaddish and Lillian, who had always lived in a fragile harmony and who choose separate paths to determine their son's fate.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book two times and think it is brilliant. Englander has wit and depth and, in his offbeat way, has captured the horrors of The Dirty War.Published 4 months ago by Susan M Grosz
couldn't read more than a few pages, since there was nothing about it that drew me in. Really not worth my time.Published 17 months ago by Marion Lipton
Great description of characters and setting. Unfortunately, I know the basis of the story is true. The ending was sad.Published 17 months ago by Nanci R Gerstman
I read the first chapter twice-as I'd did with his, "What We Really Talk About ...." The narrative unfolds in an unusual, complicated, intense, way. Read morePublished 18 months ago by EB
This book enables you to understand the time frame of the plot. The political regime that was in power and eliminated people. Strong plot that will move you. Loved the bookPublished 20 months ago by moroziris
For all of us who turn our backs on the brutalities of governments...the cruelties engendered by fear...this heartfelt novel is a reminder and an unrelenting indictment. Read morePublished 20 months ago by joan allen
It seems as if I'd always known about "los desaparecidos," but as a distant historical event, something that happened to someone else, a long time ago and far away. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Larry Benjamin
An engrossing account of the effects on one family of the 'disappearing children' in Argentina. The agony of the parents, the fear of the wider community to even admit it was... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Jill fenwick