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Everything Is Illuminatedby Jonathan Safran Foer
2002 Guardian First Book Award
A New York Times Notable Book for 2002
Synopses & Reviews
Exuberant and wise, hysterically funny and deeply moving, Everything Is Illuminated is an astonishing debut novel. In the summer after his junior year of college, a writer — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — journeys to the farmlands of eastern Europe. Armed with only a yellowing photograph, he sets out to find Augustine, the woman who might or might not be a link to the grandfather he never knew — the woman who, he has been told, saved his grandfather from the Nazis.
Guided by the unforgettable Alex, his young Ukrainian translator, who writes in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic search across a devastated landscape and back into an unexpected past. Braided into this story is the novel Jonathan is writing, a magical fable of his grandfather?s village in Ukraine, a tapestry of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. In a counterpoint of voices blending high comedy and deep tragedy, the search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, and they meet in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.
Passionate, wildly inventive, and marked by an indelible humanity, Everything Is Illuminated mines the black holes of history and is ultimately a story about searching: for people and places that no longer exist, for the hidden truths that haunt every family, and for the delicate but necessary tales that link past and future.
"A zestfully imagined novel of wonders both magical and mundane....He will win your admiration, and he will break your heart." Joyce Carol Oates, author of We Were the Mulvaneys
"Extraordinarily gifted...this young man also happens to possess something approaching wisdom. Don't just check him out. Read him." Russell Banks, author of The Sweet Hereafter
"Foer has written a glittering first novel...with great humor, sympathy, charm and daring. Every page is illuminated." Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex
"Generations become united across time in this fanciful tale, as Foer, the author, gives the reader a contemporary version of 19th-century Jewish drama — one that blends laughter and tears." Library Journal
"Comedy and pathos are braided together with extraordinary skill in a haunting debut." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"One of the most impressive first novels in a long time....[T]his book is, as its name implies, brilliant." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
Jonathan Safran Foer's best-selling debut -- "a funny, moving...deeply felt novel about the dangers of confronting the past and the redemption that comes with laughing at it, even when that seems all but impossible." (Time)
“Imagine a novel as verbally cunning as A Clockwork Orange, as harrowing as The Painted Bird, as exuberant and twee as Candide, and you have Everything Is Illuminated . . . Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened — seared in the fire of something new.” — Washington Post
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who might or might 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.
As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. As his search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.
“A rambunctious tour de force of inventive and intelligent storytelling . . . Foer can place his reader’s hand on the heart of human experience, the transcendent beauty of human connections. Read, you can feel the life beating.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
Jonathan Safran Foer was born in 1977 in Washington, D.C. He is the editor of the anthology A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell, a Book Sense 76 selection and a Boston Globe bestseller. His stories have been published in the Paris Review and Conjunctions. Jonathan traveled to the Ukraine four years ago to research his grandfather's life. This is his first novel, parts of which appeared in The New Yorker.
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