Patrick Neylan's Reviews > Hope: A Tragedy

Hope by Shalom Auslander
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Mar 06, 12

bookshelves: modern, fiction
Read from February 23 to 25, 2012

"What did Jesus say when they nailed him to the cross?"
"I don't know"
"Ouch"
"I don't get it"
"What's to get?"

Bitterly funny and bitingly cynical, "Hope" is a comic tragedy on the futility of aspiration. The philosophy comes from a minor character whose unconventional views puncture the optimism of Kugel, the book's hero. Life is painful and ugly. The sooner we recognise that, the better. After all, what was Hitler but an optimist? He thought he could change the world. Such optimism we can do without.

But "Hope" is also an allegory about modern Jewishness (and possibly even Israel) – at least, I like to read it that way. Otherwise my irritation with the main character, Kugel, would have me throwing the book across the room. Instead, I gleefully wathed as his perceived duty to his ancestors and his history led him to make every wrong decision he could make.

So, what would you do if you discovered Anne Frank in your loft, writing the sequel to Diary of a Young Girl? Kugel, already in thrall to his mother and her entirely invented Holocaust past, compromises everything he holds dear in order to remain true to a heritage that laughs at him.

Funny, satirical and full of classic American-Jewish fatalism, "Hope" is a wonderful and unique novel.
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Patrick Neylan "What did Jesus say when they nailed him to the cross?"
"I don't know"
"Ouch"
"I don't get it"
"What's to get?"

Bitterly funny and bitingly cynical, "Hope" is a comic tragedy on the futility of aspiration. The philosophy comes from a minor character whose unconventional views puncture the optimism of Kugel, the book's hero. Life is painful and ugly. The sooner we recognise that, the better. After all, what was Hitler but an optimist? He thought he could change the world. Such optimism we can do without.

But "Hope" is also an allegory about modern Jewishness (and possibly even Israel) – at least, I like to read it that way. Otherwise my irritation with the main character, Kugel, would have me throwing the book across the room. Instead, I gleefully wathed as his perceived duty to his ancestors and his history led him to make every wrong decision he could make.

So, what would you do if you discovered Anne Frank in your loft, writing the sequel to Diary of a Young Girl? Kugel, already in thrall to his mother and her entirely invented Holocaust past, compromises everything he holds dear in order to remain true to a heritage that laughs at him.

Funny, satirical and full of classic American-Jewish fatalism, "Hope" is a wonderful and unique novel.


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