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Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel Hardcover – January 12, 2012
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"A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.” – New York Times Book Review
“A caustic comic tour de force.” – NPR
“Poisonously funny…. Like an unintentional bark of laughter at a funeral.” – Entertainment Weekly
“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… 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 writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn’t joking.” — Howard Jacobson, author of The Finkler Question and winner of the Man Booker Prize
“A wonderful, twisted, transgressive, heartbreaking, true, and hugely funny book. It will make very many people very angry. It will also make very many people very happy.” — A. L. Kennedy, author of Day
“Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won’t regret it.” — John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
About the Author
Shalom Auslander was raised in Monsey, New York. Nominated for the Koret Award for writers under thirty-five, he has published articles in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Tablet, The New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR's This American Life. Auslander is the author of the short story collection Beware of God and the memoir Foreskin's Lament. He lives in New York City. To learn more about Shalom Auslander, please visit www.shalomauslander.com.
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The book is about a tragic character named Kugel who buys a farmhouse out in the country in a small city named Stockton where he and his wife and young son live. Soon after his mother comes to live with them and soon after that they find a mysterious person living in the attic of their new home. I won't give away who it is but to any reader of Holocaust literature, you will recognize this person. The story quickly goes from bad to worse as Kugel's life literally starts falling apart from the minute he meets his new attic houseguest.
I thought the language in the book was incredibly funny. I do wonder a bit if people who are not Jewish or people who did not grow up surrounded by Jews would find the book as funny as I did. For sure not everyone will get the humor. I mean does everyone in the world know who Abraham Foxman is? I guess most people do know Elie Weisel whose name appears in the book numerous times. Incredibly funny book that I highly recommend. I will likely read his other book now.
This book is similar. The main character, Solomon Kugel, has just moved into a new house with his wife and young son and his annoying mother who the doctors have "promised" will die any time now. His mother is obsessed with the holocaust and continually tries to tell everybody how much she suffered (even though she was really in the states at the time). Kugel is himself fixated on death, in finding an attic to hide in when "they" come to get the Jews, and in finding the perfect last words to say before he dies. Some of the last words he quotes from historical figures are quite funny. I don't want to spoil anything but the major twist concerns him finding an extremely surprising person living in his attic.
The book is often funny but I believe that Auslander tells the same handful of jokes too often. It's like a SNL skit that gets turned into a full length movie. This plot was reasonable but did exactly zip along. I noted that he also has a collection of short stories that might be worth trying. I recommend this book but with reservations.
Here's two bits from the book that give you the idea:
Why did the chicken cross the road? Professor Jove had asked him. I don't know, said Kugel. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was a schmuck, said Professor Jove. I don't get it, said Kugel. The chicken crossed the road, said Professor Jove, for the same reason we all cross roads--because he thought that there might be something better on the other side. Tell me, Mr. Chicken: there are no wars on the other side of the road? There is no suffering, no divorce, no failure? No hunger, no disease, no tears, no pain? They don't commit genocide on that side of the road, Mr. Chicken? On the other side of the road parents don't bury their children, sons and daughters always get the love they need, men and women don't grow old and bitter and die of regret?
Two and a half thousand years later, it was becoming undeniably apparent that an unexamined life is the only one worth living. Examined lives tended to end hanging by the neck in the shower. Life examiners tended to go out sucking on the barrel of a shotgun.
Most recent customer reviews
Zurxuitx okibcohc. Cojhx78tx. Coyfolk. ,Just let me get out of this review mash the book was so so cute premise worth a short story.
First and foremost, the writing is, in my opinion, excellent, with a sharp, stylish narrative and endless amounts of witty, perceptive...Read more