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Il Ministero dei Casi Speciali

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  2,659 Ratings  ·  410 Reviews
Argentina, 1976. La "guerra sporca", la junta militare, i primi desaparecidos.
Kaddish Poznan è l'unico fra gli eredi degli appartenenti alla Società dell'Impulso Generoso, che un tempo riuniva prostitute e ruffiani ebrei di Buenos Aires, ad ammettere le proprie origini di hijo de puta. Gli altri discendenti dell'ignominiosa combriccola lo pagano perché penetri di notte nel
Hardcover, Scrittori italiani e stranieri, 392 pages
Published 2007 by Mondadori (first published November 17th 2005)
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May 12, 2007 G rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-ground
Problematic. Englander is an adept, even-handed writer, but not an amazing stylist; worse, I never believed that the story was set in Argentina at all (it would have been better as a Kafka-esque "no place"), and I didn't find it as engaging as I would have hoped. But a good effort nonetheless.

Upon rereading, I was struck by many of the scenes but underwhelmed by the lack of cohesion - the whole was less than the sum of its parts.
Jan 18, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2007 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you
As I just finished this, it may take me a while to process my exact thoughts. There isn't a lot of florid description here of Argentina in the 70s or the Jewish community of Buenos Aires at that time, and yet the author still managed to make both these seem very present, despite never being wholly unveiled at any one point.

The protagonist is a pariah, neither at home in his community nor outside of it, and he is deeply troubled and morally defiant about it. A similar struggle marks the more inti
Nate D
Oct 08, 2008 Nate D rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 07, 2007 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," this is the tale of hard-boiled Jewish protagonist trying to make sense of a world that is rapidly deteriorating around him. But while Chabon went for affect and genre mimicry, Englander goes for a more soulful approach—the results are both more sober and more satisfying. Yet, Englander's book is far from perfect. There's not a whole lot going on during a long central act, and uninterrupted anguish can be as numbing as riveting. For a book in which ...more
Sep 27, 2013 Teresa marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Since I enjoyed Englander's first short-story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (his works have great titles), I decided to try his novel before reading his next collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories.

Either the style of this novel is different from his stories I read (some of which I do remember though it's been awhile), or his style is not conducive to a novel, because I'm not interested in reading beyond the ninety-something pages I did read, thoug
Jun 05, 2007 Jacquelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didnt think I would like this book as much as I did--it got so much press before it came out that I thought it was too good to be true. But, it ended up being a really compelling story about a jewish family in Argentina during the dirty war. Their son gets "disappeared" and they have no one to turn to b/c of their status in society--b/c of their past even the jewish community wont help them. There is not a ton of dialogue, which really creates the mood that everything is being watched and noth ...more
Stuart Chambers
May 02, 2017 Stuart Chambers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm really smiling, I finished this book HUGELY satisfied and very pleasantly surprised, I have never read anything by this author but I like edgy and brutal and I like Jewish humour and I salute real people trying to make good in the face of bad days. Its life. I picked up the book at a garage sale and the very same evening found myself completely immersed and happily page turning, there really isn't a word out of place, the story is brutal but it pulls you in, the style is exquisite and the di ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My rating "didn't like it" doesn't mean I think this is not a well-written, perhaps even a brilliant, book. I just couldn't take it. The combination of Jewish humor/style and the horror of the Peron regime in Argentina was simply too much for me. The books is about a hundred kinds of disappearances. It begins with "disappearing" the names of the disreputable Jews in an Argentinian cemetery. This is Kaddish's job. He is a prostitute's son and works chipping away at the names (and therefore family ...more
Oct 03, 2009 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What's wrong with this book? Two things: (1) It seems like it was designed for people to write papers about it, especially people who are about to travel back in time to 1992; there'sall this stuff about fences and boundaries, and erasing names. Not subtle. Also, (2) every sentence is awkward, and in a way that does not seem deliberate. I'd give the book one star, but one thing about it is impressive: not one positive thing happens in the book; every single event is Something Bad. This is quite ...more
Sep 02, 2007 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything about this book is largely good, except that it is agony to read. So much pain.
Apr 18, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In “The Ministry of Special Cases”, Nathan Englander revisits the Dirty War, the Argentine military junta’s broad and brutal overreaction to a series of kidnaps and murders by leftists. Despite the very particular historical period and the even tighter focus on a single Jewish family, Englander manages somehow in this novel to detail the most deeply personal tragedy but also to evoke larger questions about the bonds of family, of bystanders’ responsibility, of truth and governmental cover-up, of ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pete Young
Nov 12, 2012 Pete Young rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It must have been heartbreaking all over again for the Argentine mothers of the Disappeared to end their protests back in 2006. There are inevitably several non-fiction works available on this dark period of Argentina’s history but little in the form of fiction other than The Ministry of Special Cases. It must be among the best there is, in English at least, as the focus is on one family as it is torn apart by the casual cruelties of a paranoid government. Kaddish Poznan is a family man in 1976 ...more
Erika Jo
Once again, a hip, young, Jewish, Brooklyn-ish* novelist. I told myself to take it slowly, reading them consecutively would be like lighting one cigarette off the back of another. Don't even get me started on my decision to read an excellent poetry book by the 24-year-old Tao Lin directly following this read (inspiring a "Fuck You, Tao/Tao Lin Jealousy Poem"). I was prompted to read this book from a laudatory review in Poets and Writers of Englander's debut collection of short stories, and the a ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases introduced me to the history of the disappeared in Argentina in the 1970s. Until reading the book I knew nothing at all about the country or its history, and yet I can’t help feeling I should have known this history, horrific and terrifying as it is.

The novel introduces the military junta, the kidnappings and the murders so slowly and with such hesitance - we first follow a mother, father and son, and then, after the son, Pato, is disappeared, jus
Apr 10, 2011 Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not an easy read because of the context (torture and disappearances in the aftermath of the Argentinan coupe in the 70's), but I was somewhat prepared as I had read his book of short stories, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" (which I highly recommend). After I finished the book I watched a few brief video interviews with the author, Nathan Englander, and one of his comments was that he needs to write a "pressurized novel." His apparent meaning is that, in this case, he spent ten years distil ...more
Sep 02, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I did not love this book in the way I loved Nathan Englander's short story collection, I have to say that there were several things I really liked about this book. First of all, it was a topic that I am familiar with, even though reading non-fiction accounts of this period in Argentina's history has always been too much for me emotionally. I owe Mr. Englander respect for the fact that he got me to read a novel about this (and pretty quickly!) without once breaking down. In addition t ...more
Aug 29, 2009 Corny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably did not appreciate this book in the fullest manner because I did not have a clear understanding of the background in Argentina during the 70s and 80s when the Junta took charge. Nevertheless, this extraordinary look at a couple facing the loss of its only son is universal in scope. Sometimes black, sometimes very touching, the narrative reveals the hopelessness of finding the "disappeared." The indomitable spirit of Lilian and the unending schemes of her husband Kaddish come together ...more
Jul 08, 2007 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more. Really. The setting of the book -- the "dirty war" in Argentina, when so many young people disappeared, seemed particularly interesting. But I found it a bit too heavy handed for me. The main character is engaged, for example, of erasing the sordid past of the Jewish communty (though it's a past that he, alone, seeks to remember). Plus his name, Kaddish, is the Jewish prayer for remembering the dead. Then his son is "disappeared" by the government, effectively er ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Blake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty good book on an interesting topic (Argentina's "Dirty War") and one family's emotional journey through it, the author does a great job of developing the characters' emotional states while keeping the overall tone very light-hearted. But looking back, the primary action takes place in the last 1/3 of the book and I can't really remember much what took place leading up to that other than just broad development.

All in all a good read that turns great when the story finally picks up during
Sep 13, 2009 peefer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Edgy and miserable and pathetic and frustrating and angry and sad and hopeless. No, I'm not referring to my son, thanks for asking. Kaddish is the brute in question, and I would personally give him all my stars—were such a thang possible—for entertaining me through to the end. I found Kaddish highly attractive and compelling in that if-you-weren't-so-exotic-you-would-be-shit-ugly kind of way. Good job, Mr. Englander. I would elaborate more but I have to go pee.
Nov 13, 2008 Mindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating piece of fiction about the Dirty War in Argentina. Descriptions of Buenos Aires incite wanderlust, despite the gritty subject matter. Also interesting historical novel about Jews in Argentina. Loved it.
Jan 31, 2013 Dorien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moet weer veel aan dit boek denken nu maxima koningin wordt.
Jan 30, 2017 Jaclyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
finally had to give up on this one...honnestly just never got better!
Jan 11, 2011 Elsje rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How true is anything that only one man believes?

Buenos Aires, 1976. In het eerste deel van het boek wist Joods-Argentijnse Kaddish Poznan, hoerenzoon, de schande van de afkomst van mede-hoerenkinderen uit: op het afgescheiden deel van de Joodse begraafplaats beitelt hij tegen betaling de namen van de voorouders van inmiddels gesettelde joden uit.
Zijn zoon Pato is daar zeer tegen gekant. De jonge student kijkt erg neer op de levenswijze van zijn vader. Ook zijn vrouw Lillian is in Kaddish teleur
Barbara Rhine
May 07, 2014 Barbara Rhine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jewish nose as a plot device?

I refer here to a primary plot device in Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases, a novel about the terror of the Argentine military dictatorship, 1976-83, as its minions roam the neighborhoods to gather up and “disappear” the youth. As far as we know, our missing college student is your typical disaffected dope-smoking hate-your-parents type, rather than a committed leftist. Understandably, he is upset when a favorite professor is gone from one day to the n
May 21, 2009 Gerund rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immigrant-lit
A RATHER grim sense of humour is one of the hallmarks of Jewish American
literature. Writers like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow made their names kvetching about the human condition, the shadow of the Holocaust in the not-so-ancient past informing the neuroses of their New World progeny.

In their footsteps comes Nathan Englander, born into an Orthodox Jewish family in upstate New York. He made a splash with his first book, a collection of short stories titled For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges (1999)
Mar 17, 2011 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 09, 2008 Katherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"He was a plastic surgeon and Kaddish sensed that the doctor was seeing not a whole man but only a collection of faults of which Kaddish was constructed" (30).
“Instead, Kaddish wiped his mouth with his napkin and then his forehead and then his face—everything short of putting it over his finger and corkscrewing it deep in each ear” (72).
“ ‘Poppy is eighty-two. He announces his presence in a way that makes it unpleasant to share the bed’” (83).
“Each book begat another. For a boy whose entire fami
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Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important write ...more
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