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Everything Is Illuminated (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Jonathan Safran Foer

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11,897214221 (3.88)310
Member:LynCollett
Title:Everything Is Illuminated
Authors:Jonathan Safran Foer
Info:Houghton Mifflin Company (2002), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:TBR

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Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002)

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» See also 310 mentions

English (200)  French (3)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Greek (1)  All (214)
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
This book confused me so much. It was beautifully written and I really wanted to like it... but I didn't understand it. It was a little difficult to follow the plot through a series of letters, a novel, and the present, but after I caught on it was brilliant-- until the end. I still have no idea. I think that a lot of the loose ends were supposed to come together but they just didn't for me. How was Alex's grandpa involved? Why did he think he could find Augustine? I was left with so many questions. Maybe they were answered but I was too distracted by the style to understand them, but they seemed conspicuously absent at the end, and not in the good way that leaves things to the imagination. It seems like a few chapters that connected the dots were just missing. ( )
  serogers02 | Jun 10, 2017 |
Review originally posted at Dangerously Cold Tea

I'm not sure what I was expecting coming into this novel. All I had known of it before hand was: there was a movie adaptation with Elijah Wood; the author studied writing under Joyce Carol Oates; something about Nazis and World War Two; BIG HONKING GLASSES. In a way, I'm glad I didn't have much to color my viewpoint before reading and so was able to approach the novel with an open mind.

The novel Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer follows a young man, also named Jonathan Safran Foer, who is looking for the woman who saved his grandmother's life from the Nazis during World War Two. To travel through Ukraine, he hires translator Alex Perchov, who brings along his grandfather and their dog, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr. (grandfather's "seeing-eye bitch" --- did I mention they make the blind old man drive them everywhere?). Running alongside Alex's narrative of their journey is a series of letters between Alex and Jonathan that take place after the story, as well as a separate narrative that tells the story of the town of Trachimbrod and traces Jonathan's heritage all the way to his grandparents.

You'd be forgiven if you thought the main protagonist of the novel was the wandering writer Jonathan; honestly, I believe the true main character of Foer's work is the translator Alexander. From his comically improper and straightforward English, Alex is the one who drops the most thought-provoking ideas. He believes that if you change the fiction, you can change the facts themselves. Throughout his letters to Jonathan, Alex is begging the man to make the story happier --- saying things like "Why can't you let so-and-so be happy? Why can't you change the story to keep them together?" --- as if Jonathan has the power to change lives. Is it any wonder Alex spends most of the book referring to Jonathan as The Hero? Always asking Jonathan of Western life, asking him to change crucial details in his narrative --- his inflated view of Western culture has lifted his view of the writer to an almost deity-like status.

(Also, some of Alex's improper and outright bawdy English is downright hilarious. His narrative brings a much-needed humorous light to a darkly-edged story of lies and betrayal in a Jewish shtetl from years ago.)

The book itself is a wonderful twist-up of dark humor and a powerful storytelling style infused with magical realism and insight into the human condition. Actually, let's cut from the hubris infected literary phraseology and get to the nitty gritty: Everything is Illuminated is an excellent story, written in an attention-pulling manner that will keep any reader glued to the page for hours on end. Mister Foer makes you care about every character in the cast, makes you interested enough to become hungry for more details about them until you are like the fictional Jonathan, searching for the answers about the many mysteries swirling around the seemingly-innocent Trachimbrod.

I am glad I gave this novel a chance; Jonathan Safran Foer is definitely an author whose works I'll be looking out for in the near future. ( )
  SarahHayes | Feb 20, 2017 |
This book is the best trip ever. It is full of wonderful quotes, like the whole book is quotable. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Jan 19, 2017 |
It's hard to believe Foer wrote this when he was only 25 years old. It's really funny, and I think quite brilliant in parts. The story is about a fictional character named "Jonathan Safran Foer" who journeys to the Ukraine in attempt to locate the woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis. The novel is split between action narrated by Alex, the young Ukrainian tour guide and translated hired by Jonathan, and the mythical history of the shtetl of Trachimbrod, which they are attempting to locate, narrated (presumably) by Jonathan himself.

Alex's character and voice are wonderful. His narration is filled with ESL malapropisms, and his maturation over the course of the novel is the most book's most poignant accomplishment. I didn't think the story of Trachimbrod held together nearly as well--hence the 3 stars--but the book was overall impressive enough that I'm going to embark on a little Jonathan Safran Foer week. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Safran Foer gives the impression of being someone whose parents never ceased telling him, from an early age, how clever and adorable he was. And who has never ceased believing it, and never ceased believing that everyone else must just naturally believe it. It's a novel made out of the same stuff as those godawful cutesy smirking songs Adam Sandler used to do on Saturday Night Live. Somewhere before page 100 I threw it across the room. ( )
  drenglish | Dec 21, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Safran Foerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shina, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
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Important events
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Epigraph
Dedication
Simply and impossibly: For My Family
First words
My legal name is Alexander Perchov.
Quotations
One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family.
The only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad.
What is wrong with you?
Nothing, I just don't eat meat!
Grandfather informs me that is not possible.
With writing, we have second chances.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060529709, Paperback)

The simplest thing would be to describe Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer's accomplished debut, as a novel about the Holocaust. It is, but that really fails to do justice to the sheer ambition of this book. The main story is a grimly familiar one. A young Jewish American--who just happens to be called Jonathan Safran Foer--travels to the Ukraine in the hope of finding the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is aided in his search by Alex Perchov, a naïve Ukrainian translator, Alex's grandfather (also called Alex), and a flatulent mongrel dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. On their journey through Eastern Europe's obliterated landscape they unearth facts about the Nazi atrocities and the extent of Ukrainian complicity that have implications for Perchov as well as Safran Foer. This narrative is not, however, recounted from (the character) Jonathan Safran Foer's perspective. It is relayed through a series of letters that Alex sends to Foer. These are written in the kind of broken Russo-English normally reserved for Bond villains or Latka from Taxi. Interspersed between these letters are fragments of a novel by Safran Foer--a wonderfully imagined, almost magical realist, account of life in the shtetl before the Nazis destroyed it. These are in turn commented on by Alex, creating an additional metafictional angle to the tale.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:46 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Hilarious, energetic, and profoundly touching, a debut novel follows a young writer as he travels to the farmlands of Eastern Europe, where he embarks on a quest to find Augustine, the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis, and, guided by his young Ukrainian translator, he discovers an unexpected past that will resonate far into the future. With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man, also named Jonathan Safran Foer, sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past. By turns comic and tragic, but always passionate, wildly inventive, and touched with an indelible humanity, this debut novel is a powerful, deeply felt story of searching: for the past, family, and truth.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141008253, 0141037326

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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