Everything is illuminated By Jonathan Safran Foer

Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 0141037326
Genre: Novel, fiction
Pages: 276
Bestsellers: Everything is illuminated, Extremely loud and incredibly close
Published: 2002

Synopsis: [from flipkart] It tells the story of a young man who goes to the Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is aided in his quest by a blind old man, a randy guide dog and a very, very bad translator. It is funny, moving and gripping.

Nightflier Speaks:
Lately my reading list has been brimming with 'big, huge, bulky' books. So when a friend was redeeming a gift coupon and asked for suggestions, I very selfishly told her to include this rather small one. She did and I got my hands on this much talked about debut novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. From the title it felt like a very self indulgent tale. Midway I realized how the title is a clever play on words, from a non-english-speaking person's point of view. Also, I love stories set in Nazi germany. There is a distinct human-ness in them.

This story is about an American, on a journey to meet a woman who saved his grandfather in the Nazi days, with the help of a young translator Sasha, his seemingly blind grandfather Alex as the driver and the grandfather's deranged dog (bitch) Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. A simple tale of search and finding something. It is made hilarious by the meager english speaking skills of Sasha. American, is aptly called 'the hero' in third person. The myriad getting on the nerves conversations these 3 have, with the quirks of Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. set the pace for the journey. It has the peculiarity of a foreigner caught in a poignant search amid very curious locals.

The author uses many narrative techniques. There is a non-english speaking Ukrainian telling the tale with the most hilarious use of the thesaurus. Few gems - manufacture tears, feeling premium, etc.
There is an objective voice talking about the history of the place and people. There is magical realism. There is this use of colloquial Jewish vocabulary and Jewish humor every now and then. Though I was a bit lost in the first 50 pages, I egged on. All techniques fit nicely in the scope of the book and add a distinct flavor to the story. Though I am wondering if, for a first book this is too much experimentation!

Writing always gives you second chances. It gives you an option to write 'the truth' or hide it in layers. But 'the truth' makes stories more human. And every character in the book is so much more than they seem. Brod, Lista, Sasha, Alex, Yankel, and numerous other beautiful people. All have a sense of melancholy to them. The book carries it very seamlessly from one character's perspective to the other. It is a great debut novel. To be read in one seating, and journey to pre-war, post-war Ukraine.

P.S. there is a movie based the book. Trailer here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSUOYY4oukc

Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs. 223 [flipkart]

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the first 3/4ths of this book and then not so much. It got too experimental toward the end and lost a lot of momentum. Still the first 3/4th were spectacular.


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