Everything is Illuminated

Everything is Illuminated

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Everything Is Illuminated is Jonathan Safran Foer's bestselling novel of a search for truth The inspiration for the Liev Schreiber film, starring Elijah Wood A young man arrives in the Ukraine, clutching in his hand a tattered photograph. He is searching for the woman who fifty years ago saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Unfortunately, he is aided in his quest by Alex, a translator with an uncanny ability to mangle English into bizarre new forms; a "blind" old man haunted by memories of the war; and an undersexed guide dog named Sammy Davis Jr, Jr. What they are looking for seems elusive -- a truth hidden behind veils of time, language and the horrors of war. What they find turns all their worlds upside down ...'An astonishing feat of writing: hilariously funny and deeply serious, a gripping narrative. Extraordinary'The Times 'One of the most impressive novel debuts of recent years'Joyce Carol Oates, The Times Literary Supplement 'A first novel of startling originality'Jay McInerney, Observer 'Showy, smart. Made me laugh a lot'Susan Sontag, The Times Literary Supplement 'It seems hard to believe that such a young writer can have such a deep understanding of both comedy and tragedy'Erica Wagner, The Times 'A box of treasures'LA Times' 'Funny, life affirming, brilliant'Esquire Jonathan Safran Foer was born in 1977. He is the author of Everything is Illuminated, which won the National Jewish Book Award and the Guardian First Book award; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which is now a major film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock; and Eating Animals. He is also the editor of A Convergence of Birds.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 20mm | 181.44g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141008253
  • 9780141008257
  • 9,220

Review quote

'An astonishing feat' The Timesshow more

About Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer was born in 1977 in Washington, DC. He is the author of Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Eating Animals. He has also edited a new modern edition of the sacred Jewish Haggadah. Everything Is Illuminated won several literary prizes, including the National Jewish Book Award and the Guardian First Book Award. He edited the anthology A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell, and his stories have been published in the Paris Review, Conjunctions and the New Yorker. Jonathan Safran Foer teaches Creative Writing at New York University. His forthcoming book, Here I Am, will be published in Autumn 2016 by Hamish Hamilton.show more

Review Text

Jonathan Safran Foer's first book is a dazzling display of linguistic virtuosity; at times confusing, occasionally irritating in its self-consciousness, this is a challenging, exciting novel from an exhilarating young writer. It consists of disparate strands which are skilfully woven together to create a work of intense richness. The main storyline is young Jonathan Safran Foer's search for the mysterious Augustine, a woman rumoured to have rescued his grandfather from the Nazis. All Jonathan has to go on is a crumpled photograph and some fragmentary maps. Foer is helped in his search by his Ukrainian guide and translator, Alex Perchov, who accompanies Jonathan on his quest, but also brings with him his perpetually 'reposing' grandfather and a flatulent bitch by the outlandish name of Sammy Davies Junior Junior. Alex is obsessed by the English language, and an early present of a thesaurus plays havoc with his conversational skills. He not only mauls the language, he positively tortures it, with the enthusiasm of a modern-day Mrs Malaprop, giving rise to such expressions as 'between a rock and a rigid (hard) place' and 'it captured (took) five very long hours'. Jonathan is also in the process of writing the historical account of what happened to his ancestors in the little shtetl of Trachimbrod. His history begins with the bizarre circumstances of his great-great-great-great-great grandmother's birth; her parents were drowned in the river Brod at the very moment she was born. The historical sections have an air of stereotypical Jewish humour about them, and there is even an air of Swiftian influence with the two rival religious factions, the Slouchers and the Uprights, recalling the Big-Endian/Little-Endian dispute in Gulliver's Travels. The illumination of the title is horrifyingly and graphically revealed, as the historical search seems set on a collision course with the 20th century. The truth about the Nazi atrocities in Trachimbrod is shocking, and the images Foer conjures up will remain etched on every reader's subconscious. Foer sets himself the unenviable task of creating a work where the style is as important as the substance. It is an indication of his power that he only rarely becomes swamped by the language to the detriment of his plot. This is a stirring debut from an exciting new voice. (Kirkus UK)show more

Customer reviews

Everything Is Illuminated is the first novel by American author, Jonathan Safran Foer. This novel is written in three "voices". The story of Jonathan Safran Foer's search, in the Ukraine, for the family who rescued his grandfather from the Nazis during World War Two is narrated by the translator who accompanied him, Alexander Perchov. Alex claims to be "fluid" in English, and enhances his narration with the use of a Thesaurus provided by Jonathan. Jonathan also sends Alex sections of a slightly bizarre novel he is writing about his ancestors, in particular his great great great great great grandmother, and his grandfather. And finally, included are Alex's letters to Jonathan which relate occurrences in his family's life, comment on the sections of the novel and respond to corrections to the narrative that Jonathan has suggested. Whilst ultimately a holocaust novel, Safran Foer manages to inject plenty of humour with his characters (the "blind" grandfather driver with his seeing-eye bitch, Sammy Davis Junior, Junior; an ancestor with a blade in his head; a young Ukrainian with an ambition to be an accountant, who is saving to go to America by eschewing nightclubs in favour of the beach), with his fantastic eighteenth century Polish-Ukrainian Jewish shtetl full of whacky inhabitants and customs, and with the often hilarious results of generous if totally misguided use of a Thesaurus. The Thesaurus-enhanced narrative clearly demonstrates the importance of context. Clever, even if it is a bit pretentious.show more
by Marianne Vincent
This book changed my life! It was beautiful, even when it was ugly. Its quirky and occasionally hard to follow but any book lover will appreciate this book. Especially the parts set in the past. Just wonderful. The gorgeous characters and quirky stories of the townspeople really made me smile. I would reccomend this to anyone. In fact, I have the best endorsement for a book ever. I have the word ILLUMINATE tattood on my left rib in honor of this book. READ ITshow more
by Rachael Wilkinson