Everything Is Illuminated
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Everything Is Illuminated

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  99,454 ratings  ·  5,447 reviews
Humor and pathos are deftly woven together in this remarkable novel that has won sweeping critical acclaim. USA Today calls Everything Is Illuminated "a hilarious yet heartbreaking tale of family and discovery." Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed bu...more
Audio CD, 75 pages
Published November 15th 2004 by Recorded Books (first published April 16th 2001)
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Kim
Sometimes reading makes me so angry

Dammit.

I’m a freaking mess. I realize this and I accept it.

Ugh.

Why, Jonathan Safran Foer? Why? Why do you do this to me? And why the hell are you so young? I know that some call you gimmicky and think that you are just a phosphoresce in the pannikin (yes, I, too, have access to Thesaurus.com) but I just…just…spleen them. They can read their Anderson and their Coetzee and leave us dreamers alone. I am ‘Team Foer’; others be damned. (I still wish you weren’t so f...more
Mike
I watched the movie of this first and loved it. It was basically a movie about cultural misunderstanding and how people can be cruel without really knowing it. It is a story about what happens when you put an American and someone born out of the Soviet era in the same room and try to make them explain to one another why the other one thinks the way they do. In a word: hilarious.

After reading the book, I still like the movie, but it seems obvious to me that the filmmakers missed the point entirel...more
Robert Beveridge
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated (Dutton, 2002)

My, what a clever novel!

In any case, that, I imagine, is what Jonathan Safran Foer kept saying as he was writing this. And really, much about it is clever. The comparisons to A Clockwork Orange are completely unwarranted, as Alex, Foer's Ukrainian hero, destroys the English language in a quite different way than does Burgess' Alex. (A less politically correct but more conceptually accurate comparison would be Charlie Chan, as written...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 04, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
You are burned out. So you suggested to your wife that the whole family spend the weekend in a beach resort. You left the house in the morning, drove the whole day and arrived at the resort few hours before the sunset. You dropped your things, donned your beach wear, went barefoot and hurriedly went straight to the shore. The sand is not sugar-like but the pain is bearable. The wind is a bit cold and it gives you slight chills. You dip your feet into the water. It is still lukewarm since the sun...more
Bram
Everything Is Illuminated is one of the most focused books I’ve read. It doesn’t meander inappropriately, and there’s almost no excess. Seriously, this book’s got less fat than Christian Bale in The Machinist. It's either in full-on comedy mode, full-on fanciful mode, full-on drama mode, or some well-balanced combination of the three. Foer spent years editing the novel from his initial college thesis draft, and it shows—in a good way. There's no lag, and given some of the other books I was readi...more
Jason
One of the nice things about being stoned is the added dimension of humor or profundity that otherwise inconsequential things can assume in our impression of them. I remember once having my mind blown at the idea of language, and how any two unrelated people, having been raised in the same country and while having no connection at all to each other, or there being any crossover among those who have taught or influenced them, can meet each other one day and have a mutually intelligible conversati...more
Matthieu
Dec 05, 2013 Matthieu rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthieu by: K.
Gimmicks as substance.
Beth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben
Sorry but I didn't care for this at all. If Mr. Nobody wrote a book about himself as the main character, and used some uninventive malapropisms to make discussions with a foreigner amusing, the book would be tossed. But wait, Foer went to Yale. Unfortunately for me the quality of his writing shows me that nepotism will always beat out merit these days. Sorry to be harsh, but really, I found the writing to be quite poor.
Nathan Pearson
The gut-tickling malaprop voice of Alex, bragging falsely (but without a trace of guile) in a broken idiolect that suggests computer translation gone awry, is worth the price of admission all by itself. Sadly, the rest of the book -- much of it strung out in unimaginative flashback episodes -- is a turgid, half-baked mess. Reading just Alex's bits and ignoring the rest would be a bit like picking out all the chocolate chips from a bag of trailmix...but that may be the best way to snack here.
Brian Godsey
Jan 11, 2012 Brian Godsey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Brian by: Sammyatmiami
If I haven't laid out my good-book-philosophy yet, then I'll do it here. It needs to be done some time, or else any reviews I write would be somewhat out of context. So, here goes:

To me, there are two main parts, or aspects, of a book. One is the story, and the other is the way it is written. When I say "story", I mean everything that happens in the book, as it would happen in real life (or some other life, in sci-fi), while the "way it is written" is, of course, the words that are chosen to des...more
Shovelmonkey1
May 09, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people who like the arcane and the bizarre
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list

Jonathan Safran Foer has magical powers.
No, really he does.
Look I'll prove it.
He can make anyone who reads his books spontaneously vomit adjectives in great abundance.
Proof?
The cover of Everything is Illuminated.

Let's examine the evidence:

Gripping, entertaining, dazzling - The Evening Standard
Outrageous, extraordinary - Financial Times
Hilarious, exhilarating, moving - Jewish Chronicle
Serious, funny - Herald
Powerful, shocking, harsh, sincere - List
Spectacular, funny, brilliant, moving - Observer
S...more
Graeme Hinde
This gets an extra star for a truly funny gag that carries the book for the first fifty or sixty pages. That's surprising and impressive mileage for a simple bit (the narrator, a non-native English speaker, relies heavily on a thesaurus, so that "a hard journey" is "a rigid journey"), but after it wears off -- grinding agony.

Foer wants to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but his magic is insipid and his realism is lazily dishonest. He consistently goes for an easy lie over a more complex truth. For e...more
Steve
When JSF was a freshman at Princeton he took Intro to Writing with JCO (Joyce Carol Oates). She told him he possessed the most important trait a writer can have: energy. I guess I can see the evidence of that in this, his first novel, published when he was only 25. It was based on real-life research he had done in the Ukraine trying to find the woman in an old family picture who helped is grandfather escape the Nazis. He put a fictionalized wrapper around all this that bundled not only the famil...more
Nils Samuels
Jul 13, 2007 Nils Samuels rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: twenty-somethings
I could go on and on about how what is clever at 25 grows less so as we age, about how metafiction resonates more with young men who have yet to face the issues that do have enduring meaning in life (durational love, children, divorce, death), about how tapping into the Holocaust for emotional weight seems increasingly to be cheating. But enough. There are already mixed reviews that discuss the limits of this novel. Read those. Smart but not especially emotionally or psychologically interesting.
Lucy
This book is hard to piece together. It's even harder to write about.

If Everything Is Illuminated had to be categorized onto one shelf, I'd assign it a spot alongside other books about the holocaust. Or maybe about love. No, it's about friendship. Scratch that...it's really about loneliness.

Whatever it actually is about, Jonathan Safran Foer seems to be too odd of a man, and definitely too odd of an author, to define the book or narrow its focus. The minute the reader does, Foer changes the temp...more
Heidi Nemo
Overhyped, yess. But the embedded bits of brilliance are worthwhile. The play of language is what I'm most interested in here, more than the meditations on loss, holocaust, and history's shadow of brutality, personal (micro) history intersecting with, building, and being torn apart by, macro history. Those elements are there, yes.
But Alex's play of language, it goes on even in the midst of disaster. Yeah, it's a metaphor for the difficulty of all cultural, and thus personal, understanding and co...more
Patrizia O
E se dobbiamo batterci per un futuro migliore, non dobbiamo conoscere il nostro passato e riconciliarci con esso?

Quando leggo un libro cerco sempre di trovare il messaggio che vuole comunicare, di capire la tesi che vuole dimostrare: i libri che hanno un messaggio e dimostrano una tesi sono i miei preferiti, soprattutto se posso ricondurre questa tesi a qualche teoria psicologica, meglio ancora se riesco a trovare la dimostrazione di un qualche fondamento clinico.
Nel libro di J. S. Foer tutto q...more
Martine
I'm not sure how I feel about this, one of the most overhyped novels of the early noughties. On the one hand, it undeniably contains flashes of genius. It is original, inventive and ambitious, which is great. On the other hand, it has a few aspects which annoyed me, and that, I think, is less good.

In a nutshell, Everything Is Illuminated is an amalgam of three interconnected stories. The first is that of a young Jewish American (bearing the same name as the author) who visits the Ukraine in an a...more
Tea Jovanović
Jedna od onih neobičnih "otkačenih" knjiga koje mi s vremena na vreme nalete i osveže mi dan... Imala sam zadovoljstvo da je čitam u rukopisu pre objavljivanja... Mnogo kasnije nastao je film... Knjiga je, nažalost, kod nas prošla nezapaženo i srećom u međuvremenu mu se promenio izdavač... Koji će možda više učiniti za ovog autora jer on to zaslužuje... Ako volite Marka Haddona ili Dana Rhodesa... ovo je autor za vas... :)
MJ Nicholls
Foer's bizarre mix of eroticism and WWII horror is somewhat disquieting. I found myself torn between arousal, boredom, horror, and laughter. At times the writing borders on histrionic – the melodrama between the grandfather’s lovers becomes ludicrous, and Foer exhibits the excruciating desire to excavate each human emotion from his personnel as his contemporary Lydia Millet.

That said, the one stream-of-consciousness scene turns out to be the most powerful moment in the novel. Which is quite an a...more
ElizaBeth
Mar 07, 2007 ElizaBeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone, specifically Nathan and Adam
I was in pain from laughing so much during the first part of this book. I've never enjoyed a "non-native" English speaker's writing so much. Although it gets less funny and more serious as it progresses, and it occasionally treads on the unclear / confusing side of things, I think that's just part of it: you aren't supposed to fully understand everything that's happening. All in all, one of the most memorable books I've read in a while.
Jim
May 17, 2008 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Those seeking fresh voices in literature
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A show off. He even named one of his characters Jonathan Safran Foer.

It is like he sees Haruki Murakami juggling five bowling pins and he says he can do that too, so he juggles five bowling pins with ease. Then he sees Ernest Hemingway juggling ten bowling pins and he says he can do that too so he juggles ten bowling pins and he even smiles while doing it. Then he sees Gabriel Garcia Marquez juggling fifteen bowling pins and he says he can do that too, and he does it. Then somebody says no one h...more
JSou
Well, I've waited a few days to get my thoughts together on this and to try and write a review, but I still have no idea where to even start. And now I've forgotten most of the quotes that I wanted to include, and of course don't have the book with me now. I've only read JSF's Eating Animals before, so I really didn't know what to expect from this being fiction. I've read a lot of the Foer love/hate comments, but not a whole lot on what this book was actually about.

I finished this pretty late o...more
Elaine
Mixed feelings about this novel. Overall, I liked it and would recommend it to any fan of literary fiction, Jewish history, history in general, and genealogy. It's very different from the film, which slices out at least one-half of the novel: the backstory. The film is a well-done "road movie" set in the Ukraine and following the three main characters, Alex, Alex's grandfather Sasha, and Jonathan, as they search for the elusive town of Trachimbrod. The novel, however, is less focused on the inte...more
Jule
Jun 14, 2008 Jule rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jule by: Meike
I liked the idea of the plot a lot: Young Jewish-American (Jonathan) travels to Ukraine to find his family's past. Ends up driving around with his interpreter Alex (bad English), Alex's grandfather (half-blind, nevertheless the designated driver), and their family dog (flatulent). Sounds hilarious. And it is! But that is only the smallest part of the novel. There are also historical sections (from waaay way back) about the village that Jonathan's grandfather (tiny little shtetl in the middle of...more
Velvetink
30/12/2010 Black forest cake and cheap champers has got the better of me - review to follow shortly..
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So far monumentally profound in a weird kind of serendipitous epiphaneia - well to me anyway: it's like trying to describe the dawning of the light upon the darkness of my own mongrel family tree and perhaps that is what is so illuminating about it.
*************************************************************************

Found we have this in the TBR box & forg...more
Kua
All'inizio, non ci capivo una mazza... poi proseguendo nella lettura ho cominciato a trovare i fili da seguire e questo scoprire il libro pian piano mi è piaciuto molto. Questo racconto è tenero, malinconico, cinico, buffo, straziante... insomma, un bel problema tirarne fuori una recensione con i dovuti crismi. Nonostante alcune pecche narrative, è un libro che ti porta in un'altra dimensione, da cui poi è difficile staccarsi e pur trattando un tema forte come l'olocausto la lettura rimane legge...more
Stephen M
Brod "would never be happy and honest at the same time".

Dear Mr. Foer,
Your novel was so beautiful that it's hard to express my true feelings for it. Thank you. I was really moved by this book in so many ways. I feel much less alone in the world.
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Jonathan Safran Foer (born 1977) is an American writer best known for his 2002 novel Everything Is Illuminated. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, the novelist Nicole Krauss, and their son, Sasha.
More about Jonathan Safran Foer...
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Eating Animals Tree of Codes Everything is Illuminated & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning (Pocket Penguin 70's #11)

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“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.” 2550 likes
“He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad. 1878 likes
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