Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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"Everything is Illuminated", Jonathan Safran Foer

May 27th, 2009 · 2 Comments · History

Everything Is IlluminatedSynopsis: Eponymous Jewish American author/protagonist travels to the Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during the Holocaust. The Journey is aided by a ‘premium’ local translator/narrator Alex, his blind grandfather and their ‘seeing eye bitch’, Sammy Davis Jnr, Jnr.

My Take: Truly a bizarre book.

Half mythical/surrealist history of the real life Ukrainian village of Trochenbrod, half travelogue narrated in a lyrically strange broken English by a local translator – mentally digesting this book is an interesting experience. Importantly however, the structural literary pretence never gets in the way of the story and while unconventional, this book becomes more engaging as the plot unfolds – always a good sign.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a book that is both strange and pretentious as well as actually engaging for the reader, this book attracted high praise when it was released in 2005. Add this to the fact that the author was only 24 when he wrote ‘Everything is Illuminated‘ and reviewers were bandying about words like ‘genius’ and ‘greatness’. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I’d certainly heartily recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different.


“I will describe my eyes and then begin the story. My eyes are blue and resplendent. Now I will begin the story.”


“I was sired in 1977, I dig to disseminate very much currency at famous nightclubs in Odessa.”


“When we found each other, I was very flabbergasted by his appearance. This is an American? I thought. And also, This is a Jew? He was severely short. He wore spectacles and had diminutive hairs which were not split anywhere, but rested on his head like a Shapka. (If i were like Father, I might even have dubbed him Shapka.) He did not appear like either the Americans I had witnessed in magazines, with yellow hairs and muscles, or the Jews from history books, with no hair and prominent bones. He was wearing nor blue jeans nor the uniform. In truth, he did not look like anything special at all. I was underwhelmed to the maximum.”