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The World to Come

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  5,555 ratings  ·  763 reviews
A million-dollar Chagall is stolen from a museum during a singles' cocktail hour. The unlikely thief, former child prodigy Benjamin Ziskind, is convinced that the painting once hung in his parents' living room. This work of art opens a door through which we discover his family's startling history--from an orphanage in Soviet Russia where Chagall taught to suburban New Jers ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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An absolutely exquisite, beautifully written book! I loved the Yiddish folklore included throughout the book (especially the story of the already born returning to heaven to prepare the not yet born for their lives) and the ideas of the not yet borns "eating" art and "drinking" literature in heaven in preparation for their future life on earth. The author tells the story of a Chagall painting and the impact it has on all the individuals within three generations of the family who come to possess ...more
Ty Powers
This is one of those books, if you're an aspiring writer, that either inspires you to take the plunge and give birth to that novel that's been lurking in your heart since you were fifteen or (to continue the swimming pool/underwater birth analogy) intimidates you back into the dressing room, forces you to put your street clothes back on, and makes you seriously think about giving up all creative endeavors to become an accountant. At a tire store.

This book amazed me. I borrowed it from a friend
In the beginning I had such high hopes for this book. The story got off to a very intriguing start when a man, Benjamin Ziskind, walks out of a museum with a Chagall painting he believes used to hang in his parents' house. The story then flashes back in time to Russia in the 1920s to begin to explain how the Ziskind family acquired the painting. I loved the parallel stories and though I sometimes found it hard to follow the connections, I figured it would be explained in time. And I grew to like ...more
Manufactured misery. This effort reeks of the university workshop. Assembly was required. Ms. Horn appears to have taken the template of Nicole Krauss and where the latter has a character confront or be molded by The Shoah/Stalin/La Junta; Horn eschews the pivotal "Or" and asks why not cobble on a Chernobyl and Vietnam as well? You may think some characters are mistreated. My constructions really suffer from History (and goyim).

I already hated this novel when the absurdity was suddenly amplifie
If I had one complaint it's that the book was a bit too short. A great sweeping family drama mixed with magical fables and the wonder filled parts of religion (well Genesis actually). From my recent reviews it seems like the path to me loving a book is to have some combination of Angels (Children's Hospital) and/or violent Soviet oppression (Europe Central). This one had both.
Laurie Notaro
Loved this book. Loved it. Beautifully written, the tale weaves between new history and old history, through the current state and heritage of the main characters. The ending was lovely, even though it took several days for me to figure it out. I will read anything by Dara Horn. Highly recommend, this book was thoughtfully and carefully plotted, woven precisely and wonderfully done.
Jun 26, 2010 Roberta rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: really can't recommend it
I almost gave this only one star, very rare for me. And I can see from other reviews that I'm squarely in the minority. I got the CD version to "read" during a car trip with my husband and had high hopes because I had read positive reviews of other books by Horn. But....two stars because there are very interesting themes and a lot of insightful forays into human me she was desperately in need of a good editor. Long, long passages to make a point that was made over and over. T ...more
This was one of the most affecting books that I've read. The story and its themes stayed with me for months after I read it. Today, as I am pregnant, I think about one of the great ideas presented in the book about how everyone in your family before you, who has passed on, contributing something essential to the lives of those not yet born. I loved the characters---and the way the story took a piece of art work (in this case by Marc Chagall) and gave it a personal history. I would recommend this ...more
Dennis Fischman
"What made her angry was art that no one looked at, things that were hidden that needed to be seen." This remark on p. 203 of The World to Come is really about the author herself. Dara Horn uses this book to unearth Yiddish stories from Itzik Manger and Nachman of Bratzlav, I.L. Peretz and Der Nister (who is a character in the book as well). The stories have almost been obscured forever by the decline of Yiddish. But they are wonderful stories that leave whorls in your brain. They are stories th ...more
One of my friends said that she didn't like Jonathan Safran Foer because he threw in so many heart-breaking images without ever really explaining them, just kind of jamming them together.
This was like that, except a lot of the imagery wasn't particularly heart-breaking, the writing wasn't particularly good, and there were a lot of loose ties left at the end of the novel.
More than anything, I didn't end up caring about any of these characters.
By far THE BEST book I've read all year. Perhaps one of the best and most beautifully written books in recent literary memory. Please read this book if you appreciate history, art, and love.
Chance Maree
This is a difficult book for me to rate. I'd say 2.5 stars and I'd have liked to give it 3 stars but parts irritated me so much I can't say I enjoyed it overall, nor would I recommend it. For example, the constant referral to the dimples under characters' noses was interesting at first, then predictable and made me laugh (not in a good way), then felt just plain annoying to the point I wanted to throttle the words. On the other hand, I enjoyed the Yiddish folklore. That and the topic of reincarn ...more
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I wanted to like this a lot. I love folktales of all sorts, and I was really excited about the blend of Yiddish folktales I was expecting to see here.

However, while I enjoyed the long Vietnam section, as well as some portions of Benjamin's growing-up, I wasn't there on some other parts. The Der Nister sections were weirdly overwrought, and the long afterlife/pre-life block at the end was a combination of hippie-tastic, faux-mystical, and overly precious that just didn't work for me.

I think that,
I loved the beginning of this book- got bored with the middle- and loved the end. Horn's writing is schizophrenic (if you will) throughout the book, which I guess made it interesting.

My english teacher in high school taught me that everything is a copy of a previous work- you learn and expand on ideas and theories from the past. Horn does exactly this. She takes previous ideas, already written stories, and historical events and makes them her own. Once I thought about it and it's significance t
this is one of the best books i've ever read - so beautifully written, weaving characters, generations, families, literature, history, culture - and lots of heartache.... i can't believe how well the author did this and how much it made me appreciate jewish/yiddush history and art/stories.... i stayed up late finishing it and didn't want it to end!
What a truly amazing novel. I am not sure any review I could write would give it enough credit. Stretching over several generations, this novel begins with the theft of an important sketch by Chagall by Benjamin Ziskind, a once-child prodigy that has yet to find his way in the world. From there, we are taken back to an orphanage in Soviet Russia, in which Chagall taught, and up through the generations until we again meet Ben and his twin sister Sara as adults. Throughout the novel, art becomes t ...more
Luci Fortune
Jan 07, 2013 Luci Fortune rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery lovers, art lovers, history of the USSR
This was a great book but very hard to follow. There are so many characters and the book constantly jumps back and forth in time. But the story itself is very interesting. The best I can do to summarize it is to say that one of the main characters, Ben, finds a Chagall painting in an art gallery and steals it because it was the exact same one his family had on their wall when he was growing up. It turns out there's a lot of history for that painting and everyone involved. There are twists and tu ...more
I finished this book several hours ago thinking about it ever since. Magical realism with Jewish-Russian themes. The color and light of a Chagall painting told in chapter, verse and fable. The horror and memory of countless acts of violence spanning from the destruction of the first temple and the diaspera of millenea. The savagry of the 20th century masked in political "isms", leading to the terror of today. This book is about all these things and much much more.

The stories and the characters w
Katie Bliss
This book was...expansive. Complicated. Good thing I read it in paper form as opposed to Kindle because I had to keep going back to figure out who everyone was related to, and on Kindle I would've been 100% lost, as opposed to the 40% lost I still feel by the end of this book. I can tell it was well written and everything does connect up in some way, but I just don't quite have the brain energy right now to wrap my mind around this whole book and its implications. Learned some interesting things ...more
This had a lot of potential and the makings of many good stories, but it was totally mixed up. There were way to many dreams and descriptions of dreams and flashbacks and then flashbacks of dreams and light and color and flashbacks about dreams of light and color… it got so annoying I was constantly rolling my eyes every time it happened again. I didn't see how much of it fit together and some of it was way over done of how it fit together. The end was interesting but had nothing to do with the ...more
By the end of the first 50 pages or so, I was pretty excited about this book - I thought it was going to be a better " History of Love". Better because the texts that bring the characters together are so much richer than the pseudo-Borgesian book-within-a-book in "The History of Love". So I was very disappointed when I realized that the stories that connect the narrative threads in "The World to Come" were not the author's invention but an adaptation of old Yiddish tales. The rest of the book, t ...more
The World to Come is far and away the best work of fiction I have read in a very, very long time. It is beautifully written, with haunting characters and stories that will stay with me forever. Run, don’t walk, to buy this book - you should own it, not just check it out from the library.

Other than that, I don’t really know what to say. I am still reflecting and absorbing the things Horn writes about, and the way in which she writes about them. This is the newest member of my “best books ever” li
Two fellow members of my book club recommended this novel to me last week, and I immediately requested it from our university's library. I was not sure what to expect, but overall I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the spiritual component and the use of Jewish and Yiddish folk tales. The author weaved together the modern day story and the historical accounts of the family quite well. In a couple of instances, though, there were several chapters between storylines and I had to go back and refresh ...more
I had some issues with Horn's most recent book (A Guide To The Perplexed) but still couldn't get it out of my head, so decided to read some of her other work. The World To Come was fantastic. If I could write fiction, I would want it to look like this book. The last chapter was extraoridnary, beautiful, moving, and incredibly creative. I won't forget it anytime soon. I can't wait for Horn's next book.
This is not my usual reading and I must admit I first picked up the book, drawn by the cover art work. How shallow is that? But, I have to confess, I loved it. A rumination on birth, death, loss, God and Heaven, the book has passages that made me cry and others that I am still pondering a month after having read them. The story is simple-a recently divorced man, also coping with the loss of his mother, attends a museum function and finds a picture by the Russian artist, Marc Chagall which he rem ...more
I liked this imaginative well-written novel about a stolen painting by Chagall.I finished reading it on New Year's eve and its probably my favorite book of the year.Looking forward to reading "In the Image" by the same author.
Reminds me a bit of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but more mystical.
I was prepared to give this book 4 stars until the end which didn't work for me at all. Instead of further developing other interesting aspects of the plot, the author throws in some magical realism, which isn't my thing. In general, the author tried to do too much and didn't do any of it as well as it could have been done. The book is reminiscent of books by Nicole Krauss. I loved the historical fiction, esp. about Chagall, and would have liked more of that. There is a lot of Yiddish folklore s ...more
Chris Fazio
The World to Come offers a prismatic view of love and spirituality through multiple generations of a Jewish family and their relationship to a mysterious painting by an exiled Soviet painter. The central plot is a pretty straightforward mystery, but you soon realize that this os one of those kinds of books "borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Dara Horn revels in jumping from era to era, which often leads to a dizzy comingling of narratives, but also reinforces the theme of eternal return. So e
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what happened to Ben 10 152 Dec 05, 2009 08:22AM  
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Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.
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“I believe that when people die, they go to the same place as all the people who haven’t yet been born. That’s why it’s called the world to come, because that’s where they make the new souls for the future. And the reward when good people die” – her mother paused, swallowed, paused again – “the reward when good people die is that they get to help make the people in their families who haven’t been born yet. They pick out what kinds of traits they want the new people to have – they give them all the raw material of their souls, like their talents and their brains and their potential. Of course it’s up to the new ones, once they’re born, what they’ll use and what they won’t, but that’s what everyone who dies is doing, I think. They get to decide what kind of people the new ones might be able to become.” 24 likes
“Children are often envied for their supposed imaginations, but the truth is that adults imagine things far more than children do. Most adults wander the world deliberately blind, living only inside their heads, in their fantasies, in their memories and worries, oblivious to the present, only aware of the past or future.” 20 likes
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