- Series: Vintage International
- Paperback: 339 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375704442
- ISBN-13: 978-0375704444
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 80 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ministry of Special Cases (Vintage International) Paperback – April 1, 2008
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“Who is this Nathan Englander, so young in novelist years, but already possessed of an old masters voice?... One reads this novel in awe of Englander's talent. —The New York Times Book Review“A mesmerizing rumination on loss and memory.” —Los Angeles Times“[A] tour-de-force…. A few pages into The Ministry of Special Cases, it becomes clear how much [Englander] has to bring to the topic: pitch-black humor, a skeptical affection for his characters, and the narrative ability to trace the impact of fascism-with-a-modern-face on a cluster of lives.” —The Seattle Times
About the Author
Nathan Englander was born in New York in 1970. His short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and numerous anthologies including The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Anthology, and The Pushcart Prize. Englander's story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (Knopf, 1999), earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2003 and a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library in 2004. He lives in Manhattan.
Top customer reviews
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No one will even acknowledge that Pato existed. As Lillian and Kaddish attempt to penetrate the Ministry of Special Cases, Englander's novel takes on an epic quality in which Jewish parents descend into the underworld and journey through circles of hell. Gogol, I.B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander's book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration. At times Englander's motifs seem forced. Kaddish, whose very name evokes the memory of the dead, chisels out the name of a plastic surgeon's disreputable father, and in lieu of cash receives nose jobs for himself and his wife. Lillian's nose job is at first unsuccessful, and her nose slides off her face. One form of defacement pays for another. Kaddish fights with his son in the cemetery and accidentally slices off the tip of Pato's finger. Attempting to erase a letter, Kaddish blights a digit. But the fight seems staged, Pato's presence unwarranted except for Englander's schema. Other scenes are haunting: Lillian confronting bureaucrats; Kaddish appealing to a rabbi to learn if it is possible for a Jew to have a funeral without a body; Kaddish picking an embarrassing embroidered name off the velvet curtain in front of the ark in the synagogue. When he picks off the gold thread, the name stands out even more prominently because the velvet underneath the embroidery is unfaded, darker than the rest of the fabric. Englander writes with increasing power and authority in the second half of his book; he probes deeper and deeper,
What made this book fantastic:
- Englander writes beautifully; he captures fear, hope, anger and heartbreak in each and every character
- This is not a political book; the politics at the forefront of the Dirty War serve to bring years of family, cultural and identity issues to the surface, forcing the Poznan's to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of the bonds that hold their family together
- On the other hand, when politics is mentioned it is done in such a way as to make you curious to learn more (I found myself doing extra research to gain a better understanding of what was happening in Buenos Aires during this time)
- The plot and characters are realistic; it's not a fairy tale
If you're being nit-picky you may have issues with:
- The fact that everything isn't neatly tied up with a pretty red bow at the end; Englander is being brutally honest about this time period
- You may be slightly confused about the role of the Jewish community in Argentina (again, doing a quick internet search will help)
- Feeling frustrated for information or progress in regards to the plot. This frustration is what you're supposed to be feeling, though. Take your frustration, multiply it by a thousand and you'll only begin understanding what Kaddish and Lillian are feeling about not easily finding their missing son.
This is a really wonderful novel that will make you appreciate so many things about your life and your family.
Most recent customer reviews
the first half is slow moving but it picks up...Read more