Remember that time Hannah tricked me into reading Atonement? I do. I also remember the expression I often saw on the faces of those who had read it before me, and I seem to recall describing it as a ‘fond grimace, a sort of “hurts so good” expression.’ Because I hated that book with a blazing inferno of passion, I didn’t understand the fondness, just the grimace. Having now read Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, however, I get it!
Yes indeed, it did hurt; I must admit, though, that it hurt so good! The story is about a young Jewish man (also named Jonathan Safran Foer) who journeys to the Ukraine in order to find the woman who saved his grandfather from Nazi invasion in 1942. The comic relief comes in the form of Jonathan’s Ukrainian translator, Alexander, who botches every attempt made at the English language but is earnest & genuine in his attempts to help Jonathan, or “the hero” as Alex calls him, find the person who made his existence possible. The descriptions of past events and especially character interactions are often quite painful and pitiful to read, but still so compelling that I resented having to put the book down to continue later.
I will say that the book completely blindsided me with the descriptive qualities, both in the Nazi attacks and the wholly unexpected sexual content. Considering the fact that the book was about Jews, Nazis, and a trip to the Ukraine, I don’t think I was wrong to not expect a surprising amount of saucy interactions. But I was, in fact, quite wrong. So let this be your warning; if you are not a fan of unexpected and sometimes unnecessary sexual content and/or fully expected and necessary but nonetheless disturbing anti-Semitism, this may not be the book for you. If you can wade through the descriptions, though, and eventually be left with the intended beautifully painful message, though, I highly recommend it!
Hannah is still really busy with her new job, so I’m not sure whether she will have time to delve back into the scheduled readings, but I’m thinking Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy will be my next endeavor. Methinks you (anonymous reader) and HVA should jump onboard!