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“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Creato il 13 gennaio 2011 da Memole
“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer
Year of first publication: 2002
Genre: fiction, magical realism
Country: USA (the book is set in Ukraine, though)
Included in The New Yorker’s list of 20 North American writers under the age of 40, Jonathan Safran Foer is considered one of the new stars of American fiction. He started to write Everything is Illuminated as an undergraduate student, expanding it and finally publishing it at the age of 24. The book had a tremendous success and more or less the same happened with Safran Foer’s other works: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, his second novel, and Eating Animals, a non-fiction book on reasons for being or not being a vegetarian. His third novel, Tree of Codes, has just come out.
The Times has stated that Everything is Illuminated is ‘a new kind of novel [and] that after it things will never be the same again’. As most writers who have achieved this kind of success so early in their career (see Zadie Smith), Jonathan Safran Foer has attracted fierce critiques (by The New York Times, for instance) and an incredible amount of jealousy and gossiping. Those who criticize Safran Foer for the faults of his writing, nonetheless, do have a point. Safran Foer’s use of modernist devices such as time shifts, mock history and fragments of various written materials are sometimes tedious. In spite of this, Everything is Illuminated is a good book, albeit not a striking work of genius, like The Times has written.
It is the story of Alex, a Ukrainian young man who speaks an awkward and hilarious kind of English. He writes retrospective letters to Jonathan Safran Foer, a wannabe author who visited Ukraine in order to find the small shtetl where his grandfather grew up and from where he escaped when the Nazis came to destroy it. He has a grandfather who says he’s blind but drives a car and a dog“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer called Sammy Davis Jr Jr. Another strand of the novel is the history of the sthetl from the end of the eighteenth century to the Second World War. It is therefore the story of the ancestors of the fictional version of Jonathan Safran Foer and a triple attempt to write a novel. One novel, in fact, is written by Alex in his broken English, another is written by fictional Jonathan Safran Foer about his trip to Ukraine and a third is a historical novel written by the author about the shtetl of Trachimbrod. This last strand is imbibed with magical realism, Rushdie-style, that is now a little worn, but still charming. The book is a curious mix of tragedy and humour: ‘Tragedy primes one for humor’, Foer said in an interview. ‘And humor primes one for tragedy. They amplify each other’. The book is very fun to read and it will keep you hooked. If you appreciate Jewish humour do read it. Jonathan Safran Foer is a talented writer – very energetic, as critics have written – but I think he can do better. Go Jonathan, go (he’s also kinda cute, nerd kind of cute, you know)!

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