Book Review

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Photo on 15-06-2013 at 14.41

This is a stunning, beautiful, deeply moving novel that had me in streams of tears, laughing from the pit of my stomach and reflecting, deeply, seriously, honestly, on an array of complex and difficult issues.

The novel, structurally, alternates between:

1) a fictional Jonathan Safran Foer writing about his Ukrainian ancestors;

2) narrative chapters written by Alex, a young Ukrainian man writing (in comical bad English characterised by chronic mis- and over-use of long synonyms) about guiding the Safran Foer in the text on a tour of the villages his family used to live in; and

3) letters from Alex to Jonathan Safran Foer, commenting on:

           a) the chapters theoretically written by the real author;

           b) unseen letters sent from Safran Foer offering advice on the writing of the chapters about  their shared journey; and

           c) the continuance of the narrative following their trip.

It is a WONDERFULLY inventive text, structurally, that leaps back and forth, in and out of decades, narrative voices, incorporates scripts, songs, letters (as mentioned), articles, dictionaries, diaries… The real Safran Foer weaves a breathtakingly complex novel, every bit as readable and moving and witty as it is fresh, engaging and unique.

I don’t want to go into the plot in any more detail than this, because the content of it is stirring, confusing, and less important than one would perhaps imagine given what it is about. Because this is beautiful, fantastic literature, expertly written, and the fact that it is so engaging, despite being so dense and difficult on paper, is what really shines through. Consummate virtuosity.

This is the first book since A Death In The Family that I wanted to keep reading yet wanted to never end. This is truly excellent, truly my kind of thing, and truly deserves your attention. More like a proper novel than Knausgaard. Less moving, but less intensely personal than Plath, Johnson, Kerouac. It says a lot about some very big things. An excellent read.

1 comment on “Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

  1. Pingback: Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer | The Triumph of the Now

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