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Original Essays | February 11, 2014 2 comments
There are seven stories I read at least once a year, for pleasure and in the same very rational spirit that infertile males of certain old (and new)... Continue »
Nathan EnglanderDescribe your latest book.
The Ministry of Special Cases is a novel set in Buenos Aires in 1976. There are countless things that inspired the book, not least of which was a trip to Argentina fifteen years ago. I spent a few weeks in Buenos Aires and discovered a city obsessed with appearance with notions of youthfulness and beauty, and also, at the same time, obsessed with its dead. It was the juxtaposition of a polite, elegant country with a dark and terrible legacy that stayed with me; I kept focusing on the balance between Argentina's reverence for its buried heroes and all those nameless graves.
The novel focuses on the Poznan family. The father, Kaddish, makes his living defacing gravestones in a forgotten cemetery. The mother, Lillian, works in insurance in a time when nothing is safe. Their son, Pato, is simply trying to navigate his way into adulthood during complex times. The Poznans soon find themselves thrust into the heart of the Dirty War and the nightmare of the disappeared children. Seeking help, they turn to the Ministry of Special Cases.
I spent a summer picking garbage at Jones Beach in New York when I was in college. What made it so strange was the unreality of it. We'd get there at some ungodly hour and pick garbage all the weird and horrible and sometimes amazing things that wash up. We'd transform this place (picking up plastic and plastic and plastic) and then people would show up after sunrise, to walk a clean, peaceful beach as if this was what daylight had brought. It's a shocking illusion.
How do you relax?
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.