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Everything Is Illuminated (2002)

by Jonathan Safran Foer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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14,155264397 (3.85)350
Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed butcher of the English language, is his lovable Ukrainian guide. On their quixotic quest, the two young men look for Augustine, a woman who might have saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis. As past and present merge, hysterically funny moments collide with episodes of great tragedy -- and an unforgettable story of one family's extraordinary history unfolds.… (more)
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English (244)  Italian (5)  Dutch (5)  French (3)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (263)
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
One of my sons thought I would be interested in reading Everything is Illuminated; he was correct!

While the story is fictional, and not autobiographic, the hame of the author, Jonathan Foer, and main character are the same. The story takes place in the context of Jonathan's trip to the Ukraine where he has gone to attempt to find his grandfather's shtetl, Trachimbrod, and to learn about his life there. in the mainJewish-American writer's attempt learn about his life. Jonathon, a young Jewish American has only a few maps and a photograph of a woman named Augustine, who is said to have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Jonathan's guide on his trip is Alex, a young Ukrainian man. They are both twenty-one. Their driver, Alex's grandfather, who claims to be blind, also brings his dog, "Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior" along on the trip.

Alex's fractured English and cultural differences between him and Jonathon make many of their interactions both amusing and confounding. The trip to Trachimbrod becomes a cross-country odessey when Sammy Davis Junior Junior eats Jonathan's maps. ( )
  maryelisa | Jan 16, 2024 |
As the title suggests, one of the best things about this book is Foer's use of pidgin English. It's not even really pidgin English, though, it's most like the kind of English you hear from someone who's learned English without learning any of the conventions of a native speaker, and it just ends up making a wonky kind of sense. One of my favorite parts is when Alex is telling a story about getting in a car accident and he says "My face gave a high-five to the windshield" (or something like that). It really cracked me up.

Yes! A book about the Holocaust made me laugh. Crazy. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
If I had read this more succinctly and not stretched it out over a few months, it probably would have been even more interesting. However, I read several others books in the meantime and often lost some of the flow. It's very creative, symbolic, metaphorical, and deep, so my attention did not give it justice. I think it would do well with a re-read, study, and discussion. There are three threads to the book -- letters from Alex, the manuscript, and Alex's narration of Jonathan's excursion, and they're obviously linked but it is not an easy puzzle to piece together all the layers of the stories, given that everything is story and reality simultaneously. Intriguing for sure.
  LDVoorberg | Dec 24, 2023 |
I'm astonished they were able to turn than into a movie as good as it was ( )
  emmby | Oct 4, 2023 |
It's right there in the title, hiding in plain sight, Everything is Illuminated. You know what it means, Everything is Revealed, but no one would ever say Illuminated, it's not the normal way to say it. It's almost as if the author wants to say something, goes to a thesaurus, finds a synonym, and uses that word instead. An example would be wanting to say "it's hard to do something" and saying "it's rigid" to do something". It's exactly what you might expect to hear from someone who is learning English as a second language but hasn't much experience with native English speakers. In the author's defense he's put these words into a character who has been hired to translate Ukrainian into English. That's appropriate. The problem is it's a major part of this book, not just a side light. The result is when reading many sentences in the book you have to stop and think what is he really saying. There are hundreds if not thousands of these. Here are just some randomly chosen examples -

"...and so does not need currency" – rather than - "...and so does not need money"
"I want to inform you" – rather than - "I want to tell you"
"He made his arm broken the day yore" – rather than - "He broke his arm yesterday"
"I will expect your letter with anticipation" – rather than - "I hope to hear from you"
"I occasionally KGB him" – rather than - "I occasionally spy on him"
"It was the most difficult division" – rather than - "It was the most difficult chapter"
"It will not harmonize" - rather than - "It will not fit"
"Do not present non-truths to me" - rather than - "Don't lie to me"

You see the pattern. Some of these are more awkward than others, all are disconcerting. Several repeat many times, too many times. This issue interfered. It became tiresome. You want to learn what is happening but this is always interrupting the flow.

The basic storyline is a young man, Jonathan Safran Foer, what's to locate the woman who hide his grandfather from the Nazis in the 1940s. He journeys to modern Ukraine, hired Alexander with his grandfather and brother and searches for a town that has been wiped off the map, all maps. It appears that Alexander and Jonathan are attempting to write up the family history and we go over the same events several times. We also go back through two hundred years of events that no one know really happened. Eventually we learn that the Nazis murdered most of the villagers and bombed the town. One woman seems to be left and supplied some of the missing pieces. She's not the woman they were looking for.

I wondered who is going to like this book? If you appreciate an amazing imagination, this is a book for you. If you don't mind lot and lots of sexual innuendo, this is a book for you. If you're looking for lyric prose, this is not a book for you. If you don't mind stories that jump all over the place, this is a book for you. Caveat emptor.

Last but not least. The title set us up to expect that something would be explained. I suggest a less misleading title might have been "Nothing is Clarified". It probably would not have sold as well but some readers would have at least have been forewarned. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Aug 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Safran Foer, JonathanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bocchiola, MassimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gunsteren, Dirk vanÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petkoff, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shina, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed butcher of the English language, is his lovable Ukrainian guide. On their quixotic quest, the two young men look for Augustine, a woman who might have saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis. As past and present merge, hysterically funny moments collide with episodes of great tragedy -- and an unforgettable story of one family's extraordinary history unfolds.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141008253, 0141037326

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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