Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes is an odd book — very odd. Foer uses the text of another book — Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles — as a starting point, but instead of embellishing or continuing Schulz's story, Foer removes text. The text he ultimately leaves makes up this very short story. The narrator of Foer's version uses a stream-of-consciousness technique to share his thoughts about his parents. The die-cut style tends to force the reader to go slowly and haltingly, which makes the story almost poetic. I wouldn't actually classify this as a novel (or even a short story), but it is something — something new. Like Chris Ware's Building Stories, the format here affects and informs your feelings about what you are reading. At the end of this book, I felt like I had experienced something completely unknown to the world of literature. Foer states, "Working on this book was extraordinarily difficult," and I don't doubt that statement at all. The fact that he was able to create a coherent story at all out of existing text seems astonishing to me. This is a book I feel I need to read several times — and slowly — to tease out its meaning. Luckily, I enjoyed it; it was time well spent. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An enormous last day of life.
Our early conversations with Jonathan Safran Foer about Tree of Codes started when Jonathan said he was curious to explore and experiment with the die-cut technique. With that as our mutual starting point, we spent many months of emails and phone calls, exploring the idea of the pages’ physical relationship to one another and how this could somehow be developed to work with a meaningful narrative. This led to Jonathan deciding to use an existing piece of text and cut a new story out of it. Having considered working with various texts, Jonathan decided to cut into and out of what he calls his "favourite book": The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz.
As Jonathan began to carve out his story, we started doing our production homework and literally got turned down by every printer we approached -- their stock line being "the book you want to make just cannot be made". Thankfully, we found Die Keure in Belgium who relished the challenge of making a book with a different die-cut on every page.
Over a year of writing, cutting and proto-typing later, comes Tree of Codes, a haunting new story by Jonathan Safran Foer cut from Bruno Schulz's words.
The book is as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling: here is an "enormous last day of life" that looks like it feels.
"Jonathan Safran Foer, deftly deploys sculptural means to craft a truly compelling story. In our world of screens, he welds narrative, materiality, and our reading experience into a book that remembers that it actually has a body." Olafur Eliasson
Tree of Codes is a haunting new story by best-selling American writer, Jonathan Safran Foer. With a different die-cut on every page, Tree of Codes explores previously unchartered literary territory. Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a first as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling. Tree of Codes is the story of an enormous last day of life as one character's life is chased to extinction, Foer multi-layers the story with immense, anxious, at times disorientating imagery, crossing both a sense of time and place, making the story of one person's last day everyone's story. Inspired to exhume a new story from an existing text, Jonathan Safran Foer has taken his "favorite" book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story told in Jonathan Safran Foer's own acclaimed voice.
About the Author
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into 36 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.