Everything is Illuminated

by Jonathan Safran Foer | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0241141834 Global Overview for this book
Registered by cassies-file of Inveraray, Scotland United Kingdom on 4/11/2005
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by cassies-file from Inveraray, Scotland United Kingdom on Monday, April 11, 2005
With weathered photograph in hand, a young man visits the Ukraine to find the woman who might, or might not, have saved his grandfather from the nazis. Accompanied by Alex, his youthful and seriously inadequate Ukranian translator, an old man haunted by his memories of the war, and a mongerel bitch named Sammy Davis Jr Jr, he is lead on a quixotic seach across a devaastated landscap and back into an unexpected past.

As their adventure unfolds, the young man imagines - and reanimates - the history of his Granfather's village in the Ukraine, weaving a tapestry of symmetries that unites generations across time. Lit by passion, fear, sex, guilt, memory and hope, the characters of Evwerything Is Illuminated mine the black holes of history (while stopping off for the occassionall non-vegitarian meal), in an arresting blend of high comedy and deep tragedy. As their journey moves backwards in time, the fantastical history moves forwards, untill reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extrodinary power.

Ultimately this is a novel about searching: for people and places that no longer exist, for the hidden truths that haunt every family, and for the delicate but neccesary tales that link past and future. Exuberant and wise, hysterically funny and deeply mooving, Everything Is Illuminated is an astonishing debut.

Journal Entry 2 by Fire-Dragon from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Thursday, September 01, 2005
My cousin has passed this on to me to read. I've actually been meaning to read this for a while - it's one of those books that gets talked about a lot and it's nice to be able to follow the discussion. However, I believe that it's not everyone's cup of tea - my cousin said the writing style was a bit grating at times. Anyway, I'll give it a go and pass it on when I'm done. Please PM me if you're interested in reading it after me.

Journal Entry 3 by Fire-Dragon from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Saturday, September 10, 2005
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the device of weaving the two narratives and Alex's letters to Jonathan worked really well. Alex's clumsy English (which grew less clumsy as the book went on) was charming and made me smile.

I offer this up to any other BookCrossers who would like to read it.

Journal Entry 4 by Fire-Dragon from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, September 12, 2005
This is becoming a bookray. So far we have:
1. BookGroupMan, UK

The second participant (WormyOne) has pulled out so it's up to BookGroupMan whether he wants to keep this going as a bookray or do something different with the book.

Journal Entry 5 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, September 29, 2005
Thanx Fire-dragon, i'll read and pass on as soon as poss :)

(30/11) *includes spoilers*

Everything is Illuminated? I beg to differ, there are a lot of loose ends here, both in terms of plot ‘facts’ – e.g. who did what and when – and recurring themes & allusions. Like, for instance:

(1) Who was/is Augustine? Did we meet her, or is that the point, that some things are lost in history and become ‘unknowable’
(2)Did Safran/Zosha’s baby die in the Brod during the German bombing, or become the progenitor of the contemporary Safran?
(3)Is Alex/Sasha gay/in love with ‘the hero’
etc.

These may be obvious to all other clever-heads; I suppose Foer hasn’t alienated too many readers, as this was a critical (Guardian first book award winner) and a commercial success.
This is a difficult book to like, because it is so very clever and self-aware, as only a young sincere Jewish New York first-time author can be? Apologies for shocking stereotypes!

For some critical balance, there are some great characters, not least the main narrator Alex/Sasha of the mangled English and thesaurus, and his narcoleptic grandfather, and the psychotic dog Sammy Davis Junior, Junior (yes really!) Foer appears as a cameo of himself seeking out the ‘truth’ about his grandfather’s salvation during WWII – although his character remains a little under-drawn I thought?

I can’t even begin to explain the back story about the history of the Ukranian village (‘shetl’) of Trachimbrod/Sofiowka, so I won’t!

So to sum up; it’s a story about Jews in Russia, and the war, history and storytelling, the truth and lies (i.e. myths and stories), guilt and coming to terms with one’s past, its about life and all its inequities, and in the words of the deceased philosopher Pinchas T, in his notable paper To the Dust: From Man you Came and to Man You Shall Return, "it is possible, in theory, for life and art to be reversed" :-)

Journal Entry 6 by BookGroupMan at The King's Head pub in Woodbridge, Suffolk United Kingdom on Saturday, December 03, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (12/3/2005 UTC) at The King's Head pub in Woodbridge, Suffolk United Kingdom

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Nice to see semioticghost & urbanspaceman at an impromptu 'mini-meet' in Woodbridge :)

Journal Entry 7 by Semioticghost from Ipswich, Suffolk United Kingdom on Saturday, December 17, 2005
Picked up from bookgroupman in a pub in Woodbridge - thanks!

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