Townhouse Books

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Everything is Illuminated: Jonathan Safran Foer

So apparently the last several months have been filled with books that have been recommended very highly by people who are very close to me. This is the most recent one, which was actually recommended *after* I saw the movie of the same name.

This is one book that I'd actually recommend you save until after you see the movie, and it's mostly because of Alex.

Alex is a Ukrainian twenty something who has big dreams of moving to the US and bringing his brother Igor with him. His English isn't necessarily bad. I mean, it's technically correct, but it's really more like he has a basic command of English and then found out about thesauruses, and then used them like there was no tomorrow.

He signs his letters "guilelessly" and often refers to things as "rigid" when he really means "hard". Seeing the movie first really let me cue into how Alex actually speaks, and it keeps Alex's sections from coming off as cheesy or fake.

Oh, right. So Everything is Illuminated is the story of Jonathan Safran Foer, who journeys to Ukraine to search for the town his grandfather was from (Trachimbrod) and to search for a woman in a photograph who may or may not be named Augustine. Alex and his Grandfather act as guides for Americans who come to Ukraine searching for the places their ancestors lived.

This story is also intertwined with the story of the history of Trachimbrod, which is told in a fanciful, almost magical realistic voice of Jonathan. This story actually isn't even in the movie, and it came as a bit of a shock that there was a whole other story line that I didn't even know about.

Get this book, read it, ignore the hype. You'll almost certainly enjoy it, although it can be a bit harrowing at times.

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