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Hope: A Tragedy

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The bestselling debut novel from Shalom Auslander, the darkly comic author of Foreskin’s Lament and Beware of God.

A New York Times Notable Book 2012

The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: no one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any historical import at all has ever happened there, which is why Solomon Kugel, like other urbanites fleeing their pasts and histories, decided to move his wife and young son there.

To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way for Kugel…

His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one Kugel bought, and when, one night, he discovers history—a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history—hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.

Hope: A Tragedy is a hilarious and haunting examination of the burdens and abuse of history, propelled with unstoppable rhythm and filled with existential musings and mordant wit. It is a comic and compelling story of the hopeless longing to be free of those pasts that haunt our every present.

292 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Shalom Auslander

10 books268 followers
Shalom Auslander is an American author and essayist. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Monsey, New York where he describes himself as having been "raised like a veal".[1][2] His writing style is notable for its Jewish perspective and determinedly negative outlook.

Auslander has published a collection of short stories, Beware of God and a memoir, Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir. His work, often confronting his Orthodox Jewish background, has been featured on Public Radio International's This American Life and in The New Yorker. In January 2012, Auslander published his first novel, Hope: A Tragedy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 861 reviews
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,442 followers
April 28, 2023
E păcat să nu citiți acest roman plin de vervă și umor. Amintește de Kafka și de Philip Roth. Gîndul supraviețuirii Annei Frank de la Roth provine. Autorul nu are nimic sfînt.

Întrebarea romanului sună așa: ce poate să facă un bărbat rațional, alb, american și evreu, când se trezește în podul casei cu o femeie bătrînă, care pretinde că se numește Anne Frank și-l trimite să-i cumpere pască? Încearcă, bineînțeles, să se împace cu noua situație și pleacă imediat să caute pască.

Anne Frank este chiar Anne Frank, autoarea celebrului jurnal, care lucrează la un roman și nu pare deloc sigură că va reuși să-l publice, deși jurnalul ei s-a vîndut în 40 de milioane de exemplare... Iar cel care se duce să-i cumpere pască, pentru că așa i se pare normal, se numește Solomon Kugel, este proprietarul imobilului și are tot felul de idei bizare: îl preocupă îndeosebi ce va spune el în clipa morții. Trebuie să dea dovadă de agerime, cînd mori nu poți spune orice, ar fi stupid, se cuvine să fii încă o dată profund...

Inițial, numitul Solomon Kugel are o casă, o nevastă (Brianna), un copil bolnăvicios, un chiriaș pretențios și o mamă care urlă cînd se trezește din somn: visează că este închisă într-un lagăr de exterminare. Treptat totul se tulbură. Pe la pagina 21, bietul Solomon urcă în pod, fiindcă îl deranjează un zgomot agasant, și dă acolo, după cutii și lucruri inutile, peste Anne Frank, adevărata Anne Frank (a supraviețuit printr-o minune), care scrie înverșunat la un laptop, lovește claviatura cu o furie surdă, încît se aude în toată casa, o aude și chiriașul. Solomon nu este cel mai fericit om de pe pămînt, asta e sigur.

Mai mult n-am voie să spun: totul se termină în foc...
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews585 followers
April 1, 2018
Update: a good friend of mind just read this ...and reminded me how much I enjoyed this comic/tragic GEM. I still own my book!!
You can’t have my copy - It makes me laugh too much. But ... I’ve give this book to others many times. ( I bought stacks when it went on sale years ago at Barnes and Noble)
I really don’t understand why some readers were offended- or didn’t care for it...
I know some ‘Jewish’ people from my temple who felt it was in bad taste ...
Maybe? I absolutely loved it.., so sue me?
AND.. I believe many readers will like this book.
It’s for when you’re in the mood for a ‘good’ comic/tragic book!

Hilarious writing! (burst-out-laughing -over and over again!)---And...then 'again'!!! You won't NOT be able to share the 'hot' lines with your close family and friends.
--Twisted -- some of the lines are you'll want to remember!

Note: (this is taken out of context --won't make much sense without reading more): .....but I died laughing at ....."His stomach was anti-semitic".
Dozen of other funny quotes:
"why did childrfen always draw the sun smiling? Its a giant ball of fire, kids. Its rage and fury. Whatever its doing, it isn't f***ing smiling.".

"Hope, A tragedy" is a contemporary comedic Jewish-tragedy ---[a book of this type does not get much better].

This young author has just met his match with *Jonathan Tropper* and *Philip Roth* (if you don't believe me...'blow me'). Sorry, couldn't help myself! ha ha--. The "blow-me" just sounds like something the character Soloman Kugel might say!

Soloman Kugel is one heck of a funny protagonist ---(add the supporting characters: his mother, his wife, the "old bag" in the attic, etc. ---and this is one book filled with characters and great funny writing you don't want to miss!!!!!

NOTE: My good friend started reading this along with me --(he ordered the audio). I got excited and wanted to hear his the audio voice. ----
However, maybe because I had already read a decent amount of the book, in my imagination I heard a 'different' and 'older' voice than what was on the audio.

Then I soon come to learn that the author is just a KID, (a talented young man under the age of 35), WOW!
--- but in my 'head' I was hearing a different type of voice for Solomon (Jewish Grummy sounding guy...and older!). The audio voice (the author I suppose) ---was of a calm man --as in just 'reading' a story. I didn't 'feel' the flavor of his writing as much as I did from the 'reading-of-the-book-itself'.

I'll have to ask my friend (I suppose he's almost done with the book now) ---if the voice/audio added or took away from the story for him).

..... This book was a surprise *gem*..
Twisted-humor at its best!!!
Profile Image for David.
161 reviews1,492 followers
March 1, 2012
The title of Hope: A Tragedy alludes to the philosophy of a radically cynical character in the novel named Professor Jove. In lieu of malice and misfortune, Jove blames human misery simply on hope: despite continual evidence to the contrary, humans still foolishly hope for the best and believe a good, reasonably happy life is somehow attainable. In this theory of hope, Hitler becomes an optimist. Although his methods strike us as cruel and—yes—certainly draconian, he believed a better life was in fact possible (i.e., by the elimination of the Jews and other undesirables and a subordination of inferior cultures to the German way). Hope begets disappointment; recurring disappointment begets misery. Had Hitler survived, we wouldn't expect him to be happy. At least, not without meds.

The inside jacket plot description of Shalom Auslander's Hope: A Tragedy is somewhat misleading. It seems to suggest that the main thread of the novel is about a maniacal arsonist who terrorizes the town of Stockton, New York, and its environs by setting farmhouses ablaze. But no. The central plot is about Solomon Kugel, an exurban who moves his family to this bucolic setting only to discover that the aged, decrepit, cantankerous Anne Frank is living in the attic of his new home—defecating in his forced air registers and writing a smutty novel. (This is not a spoiler. The revelation occurs on page 25.)

In other words, the novel is a tragical farce. Now, some people aren't able to deal with farce—and I understand that—in so far as it traffics in the most implausible and outlandish plot points imaginable. (Anne Frank in the attic is really only the tip of the iceberg.) Many contemporary readers are willing to suspend disbelief, but only to a point. Once that line is crossed, they shut down and begin an adversarial relationship with the book. If this is you, avoid this book. Please. I don't want to read your whiny, idiotic review about how completely unrealistic this book is. It's a farce! Farce is not Stephen Crane.

Shalom Auslander is obviously a funny, highly irreverent (read: wonderfully offensive), and witty writer, but it's not all just for laughs. There are some hard truths about life, death, and the burden of history here. The second chapter, for example, is a profound monument, scaffolded in humor, to the death neurosis. Maybe part of my appreciation of the novel is my strong identification with its fixations:

Should I be worried? Kugel asked.

You should only worry, said Sergeant Frankel, about the things you can control.

If I could control them, said Kugel, they wouldn't worry me.

Exactly, said Sergeant Frankel.

Exactly, said I. People who don't worry about death disturb me. There's something defective about them. There. I've said it. I've judged. There is something wrong with those who cling to its inevitability as a reason not to worry about it. No, that's precisely the reason to worry about it, idiots! Anyway, Kugel is an extreme exaggeration of many of my thoughts and feelings. Distorted though they may be, I recognize them easily here. And yes, I laugh at them. What else can you do? (I mean, when you're not hyperventilating into a paper bag.)
Profile Image for Ruxandra (4fără15).
239 reviews5,202 followers
May 9, 2021
Ach, said the old woman behind the wall. I'm sick of all that Holocaust shit.

I do get where Auslander is coming from with this book (and it was really interesting to read about his background growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community), but I could not, for the life of me, get over how poorly it was written. It would go on like this. Sentences all broken off. Severed. Incredibly dull – though, yes, it is supposed to be a funny one. I'll admit I did skip a lot of it, as Auslander's point had already been made in the first 15 pages or so.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,667 reviews2,659 followers
February 25, 2016
My top novel of 2012. In Auslander’s absurdist battle between optimism and pessimism, momentous tragedy and mundaneness, nothing is sacred – not the presidentially mandated virtue of hope; certainly not those Jewish “heroes” Anne Frank and Alan Dershowitz; not even the aesthetic guidelines for metaphorical language (“the sun was in the sky like a something. The breeze blew like a whatever”).

This debut novel is ferociously funny. It takes the sarcasm and blasphemy of Auslander’s memoir (Foreskin’s Lament) to a whole new level of mordant wit. There is something to make the reader laugh out loud on every page, from the audacity and ridiculousness of some of his plot construction, down to the twisted allusions to Genesis or Poe’s “The Raven”: “It was evening, it was morning, it sucked”; “A tapping. As if some mouse were gently crapping, crapping on his attic floor.”

The plot is simple enough, based on two facts: the small suburban town of Stockton, New York is experiencing a spate of arson attacks; and Anne Frank is alive and dwelling in Solomon Kugel’s attic, where she is frantically tapping out her endless magnum opus, a novel. Kugel is a deliciously clichéd Jewish sad schmuck, exasperated with his Holocaust-obsessed mother who just won’t die, falling behind in his job as a compost system salesman, and trying to provide some semblance of a sane household for his longsuffering wife and three-year-old son.

Kugel’s psychiatric ‘help’ is provided by über-pessimist Professor Jove (the voice of the Almighty himself?), who blames all the world’s problems on an excess of hope – hope that life will improve, that humans can do anything to alter their fate. The voice of Jove is contradicted by Kugel’s brother-in-law, ‘Pinkus Stephenor’ – here Auslander makes no attempt to mask his caricature of Harvard professor Steven Pinker, whose latest theory is that humanity has naturally evolved to become better, i.e. less violent than in the bad old days when wars lasted a hundred years. Auslander’s lampoonery might be a bit too facile, but it is wickedly funny.

This was my most memorable book of the year – almost every individual scene has stayed in my mind. Coming back to it months later, I still remember all the outrageous things that made me laugh, or made me shake my head in confusion. Hope: A Tragedy is an iconoclastic marvel, as hilarious as it is horrific, and a damn good read to boot.

(Recommended reading: as a pair with the short stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander.)

Also enjoyably apposite is the following (apparently real-life!) dialogue:

Customer: Hi, I just wanted to ask: did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?
Bookseller: ...
Customer: I really enjoyed her first book.
Bookseller: Her diary?
Customer: Yes, the diary.
Bookseller: Her diary wasn’t fictional.
Customer: Really?
Bookseller: Yes...She really dies at the end – that’s why the diary finishes. She was taken to a concentration camp.
Customer: Oh...that’s terrible.
Bookseller: Yes, it was awful –
Customer: I mean, it’s such a shame, you know? She was such a good writer.

(From Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell)
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
November 4, 2016
This book did not work for me.

It should have.

It is a satire, reportedly funny. I love satire. But I didn't think it was funny. At all. I did not laugh once.

Its thesis statement is dethroning of heroes and reevaluation of historical events. I love those topics. I hated the way it was handled in this book, though.

What went wrong? I have tried to put my finger on it, and the only thing I can come up with is that the humour was slapstick, immature vulgarity, which I despise. Instead of making me smile, it made me cringe at the effect-seeking bluntness and lack of finesse. I don't mind strong or simplistic language per se, if it makes sense, but a whole novel with a long line of basic dialogues, spiced up with godammits and fucks, isn't exactly what I want to waste my time on.

As for the dethroning of heroes: It was the wrong person. To me, Anne Frank never was a hero, just a human, childlike voice in the darkest hour of history. There is no need to dethrone her, because she never aspired to be put on a throne. Her diary, consisting of reflections and thoughts on a much more mature level than this so-called satire, has a place in my heart that I do not want to see trashed. If the post-war hero cult is to be made fun of, I would rather see the people who put her on a piedestal ridiculed than her. She was an innocent victim of the Holocaust. Period.

There is a tendency in contemporary literature to make fun of everything, to buy an audience with cheap jokes. I am not thrilled. Maybe there is something wrong with my sense of humour.

Not recommended.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
96 reviews
April 17, 2012
This book annoyed me to death. I hated the characters. I gave the book one star, and the reason I did so was that I don’t have a lot of patience for characters like Kugel and his mother. He was too Woody Allen-like for me. I hate Woody Allen movies for the same reason: stop being so introspective and neurotic and start acting like a grownup. That’s what I want to scream at the characters.

Also, the entire premise that he couldn’t kick Anne Frank out because it would look bad on him was ridiculous to me. Why didn’t he just bring her to the Jewish organization that he called to check on her? Why did he see it as “kicking her out” rather than “placing her in a more comfortable environment” where she wouldn’t have to poop down the heating vents? That was just ridiculous to me.

Also ridiculous was his indulgence of his mother. I didn’t find that funny, which I know I was supposed to, I just found it outrageously annoying. Putting the vegetables out in the garden for her to find, and letting her poop in the heating vents, and letting her insult the tenant? Not funny to me. I don’t find that movie “What About Bob?” funny either, and I felt like this was similar: one character’s neuroses and annoying habits are destroying another character’s life. I just don’t find that funny at all.

So, that’s why I gave it one star. The whole Holocaust thing, I can understand why Kugel was sick of it,after his mother pretending to be a victim of it and bringing it up constantly over the years, and I thought the author wasn’t disrespectful of the Holocaust, I thought the mother was by pretending to be part of it. But that didn’t annoy me nearly as much as her unreasonableness.
Profile Image for Jason Furman.
1,208 reviews816 followers
February 5, 2012
Outrageously funny, so wildly original you forgive a certain amount of repetitiveness, a rude offspring of Philip Roth and Franz Kafka. The sort of book where you constantly want to put it down and call everyone you know to read them the passages you just read.

Solomon Kugel is a neurotic obsessed with death who recently moved with his family to a farmhouse in upstate New York. One night he hears noise coming from the attic, goes up to investigate, and discovers Anne Frank living up there. But not just any Anne Frank, but a cranky, old, foul-mouthed one who is trying to write a book but laboring under the weight of her previous book which, as she constantly reminds us, sold 32 million copies.

Meanwhile, downstairs Kugel's Mother is obsessed with the Holocaust, constantly invents stories about being a survivor, along with bizarre claims (like: see this lamp it's your uncle, but the sticker on it says "Made in Taiwan." Well they wouldn't put Made in Auschwitz on it would they. This then gets repeated with a bar of ivory soap).

The book explores optimism vs. pessimism, the former being personified in Kugel's brother-in-law (Pinckus, who appears to be a stand in for Stephen Pinker) and the later in Kugel and his hilarious psychiatrist Professor Jove.

I don't want to spoil any more, you should just read it.
181 reviews2 followers
January 26, 2012
Whether or not you'll like Auslander's debut novel depends on how much you cling to the totemic narratives of history. If you're not afraid to wrestle down those figures and interrogate the validity of their martyr status, then you'll relish this supremely dark and twisty comedy of faith and modern life. If you bristle at reconsidering why you worship the surviving narratives of history's darkest time, then you won't like it at all. Ultimately it's a novel that will speak to the most revisionist of us, but provoke plenty of conversation either way. I wanted to hate it, but ultimately realized that it left me haunted with questions for days after finishing it. So I only urge you to read it if you'll come and tell me what you thought afterwards...

Read my full review of this book at The Millions: http://www.themillions.com/2012/01/so...
Profile Image for Stela.
945 reviews354 followers
October 20, 2022
The idea that hope is the hugest misfortune humanity was cursed with is not at all new. It is sadly revealed in the myth of Pandora’s box, it is thoroughly proved by the Buddhist equivalence between life and suffering, it is only apparently reversed by the Dantesque inscription on the hell gates “Lasciate ogni speranza…”

New in this disturbing book is the way Shalom Auslander chooses to interpret the theme. To prove, without doubt, that hope is a tragedy in a book that reads as a comedy is a masterstroke. The main tool, although not the only one, is the double entendre, that starts with the very title: is “tragedy” a synonym for hope, or simply a subtitle of the book (instead of the usual specification “a novel”) or is it a little of both?

The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems, because it may lead to different interpretations in interesting contrast with the light, comic tone, from the idea that the laughter is meant to be only another form of crying, to the opposite one, that happiness is as meaningless as suffering. In which case the only reality, the only way to escape is death. I remember Cioran, in his essay, "The Trouble with Being Born", develops the same theme, although in another register. The most striking similarity of the two books concerns procreation – only that whereas the Romanian author congratulates himself for resisting the atavistic impulse of being a father, Solomon Kugel, in his own bizarre way of thinking, feels guilty he didn’t try and make an imbecile of his son:

A truly good father, a caring father, a protective father, would sit that child in front of the television set all day and let that sharp, curious mind turn to spongy, uncomprehending, witless mush. It would have been the least I could do. I brought him into this world, didn’t I? I should at least have the courtesy to ensure he go through it in a mindless, drooling stupor like the rest of the goddamned species.

The main character’s name Solomon Kugel, is a precious clue for this key of lecture. The association of his first name with biblical resonances suggesting wisdom with the second, Kugel, which apparently means a bland, puddingy Jewish potato dish, is comical enough. But what else is man that the caricature of some otiose God who, bored of this resemblance of His creation with Himself often tricks man into loving life and forgetting the only reality is death? Since Kugel somehow had become aware of his puppet condition, he became obsessed not with death, but paradoxically, with his own attitude towards death in the very moment of dying. He keeps remembering the last not-so-memorable words of some memorable artists, and he keeps writing epitaphs for his tombstone. No wonder that book begins with the hero fear of dying by fire and it ends, for there is no flying from fate, with him dying by fire. In between, he gradually acknowledges the Kafkian character of the world, inhabited by unfortunate monsters that the others keep alive because of a wrong sense of pity and of course hope:

Exactly how long were the poor Samsas obligated to keep that arthropodan pain in the ass in their home? A year? Two? Ten? Sixty? Were they supposed to find him a giant bug wife, and let them have giant bug children before they could finally, without judgment, move on with their already miserable lives? (…)

Gregor’s sister could have saved the whole family—not the least of whom was Gregor himself—a world of anguish and trouble if she’d just gone into his room, day one, with a giant can of Raid and gotten it over with.

His attitude is fuelled by a whole Jewish history of suffering whose symbol is Anne Frank. Anne Frank who rose from the dead and hid in his attic, forcing his epiphany. One of the most poignant pages in the novel shows our (anti?)hero wandering between the supermarket ranges to buy some food for her, while noticing that nowadays you pay more for the things you don’t get in food (“no sodium, no fructose, no corn syrup, no MSG, fat-free, carb-free, dye-free, wheatless, flourless, sugarless”) and dreaming of the departure of his unwanted guest in alimentary clichés:

… one morning he would awaken and go up to the attic, and Anne Frank would be gone, and he could go on with his life, Anne-free.
One hundred percent Frankless.
Now with Less Genocide.

Kugel is a strange mixture of hero and antihero, a modern Don Quixote who chose to mock instead of honouring sacred images: “I’m sick of this Holocaust shit” This amazing ability to scorn taboo subjects has not the purpose of making you laugh – this is only a secondary effect, that sometimes successfully hides the grave tone of the message – the absurdity and futility of a life in a world where everything concerts to make you suffer: your body, your psychic and of course, your neighbour, the man. The world keeps going only because it is wrongly decoded: hope, optimism, life itself are valueless. Therefore Kugel prepares himself for his own tragicless end by consciously making absurd choices. First he gives up society, by losing his job while trying to get rid of Anne. Then he gives up family, by refusing to evacuate the same Anne, who scared his boy and his wife. And finally he gives up life (both metaphorically and literally), by choosing to rescue Anne and not his mother from the fire.

There is an epilogue to emphasize even more the title. A young couple, on the verge of buying the house of their dreams notice, like the Kugels did once, that it smells funny. Of course it does – their own Anne Frank is waiting for them in the attic. For:

Hope springs eternal, Kugel once said to Professor Jove.
It doesn’t have to, Professor Jove had replied.
Profile Image for Kim.
286 reviews791 followers
June 25, 2012

I’ve been called a Pollyannna. Seriously. I know, right? Funny. Granted, Pollyanna is from Vermont… and she does tend to look at the bright side of life…and I do agree with the statement ‘Just breathing isn’t living!’ but, I draw the line at believing in stupid ‘glad’ games. And this song is really irritating and doesn't at all describe me. I much prefer this version… and it’s not like I ALWAYS find the good in things… I mean, there is absolutely nothing good about that song ‘I’ve got the moves like Mick Jagger’ or baby seal clubbing… but, I digress… of course.

Anyway, I can still enjoy a good neurosis, I am catholic after all… I can look at a character like Solomon Kugel and totally get where his head is at. He’s F U C K E D U P and I think I might just want to hug him. He reminds me of a certain goodreader that I have hugged (much to his chagrin).

”Kugel loved life… and so he expected far too much of it; hell-bent on life, he was terrified that someone would cause, by violence or accident, his untimely death. Kugel, in his own defense, pointed out that he didn’t think anyone was actually trying to kill him, he simply thought it well within the realm of possibility that somebody, unbeknownst to him, and for reasons yet to be revealed, might be; there is a line, he argued, thin as it may be, between paranoia and pragmatism.”

See? ((((HUG))))

Kugel thought specifically about the experience of dying. He thought about the pain, about the fear. Most of all, he thought about what he would say at the final moment; his ultima verba; his last words. They should be wise, he decided, which is not to say morose or obtuse; simply that they should mean something, amount to something. They should reveal, illuminate. He didn’t want to be caught by surprise, speechless, gasping, not knowing at the very last moment what to say.
No, wait, I *oof*
I haven’t really given it much *splat*
If I could just *ka-blammo*
We are all mankind a story, collectively and individually, and Kugel didn’t want his individual story to end in an ellipsis. A period, sure, if you’re lucky. An exclamation mark, okay. A question mark, probably; that seemed the punctuation all stories, collectively and individually, should end with after all.
Not an ellipsis, though.
Anything but an ellipsis.

Here, I disagree… I am a huge fan of ellipses… I would love it if I ended in one. That would be mysterious, that would give someone, if they wanted to, a chance to continue the story. Ellipses are infinity… they are beautiful.


Kugel was raised on the Holocaust. It was his mother’s ‘go to’… it gave her a reason to go on… she found that if she just muttered ‘Ever since the war…’ and then ‘those sons of bitches’ that a whole new world would open up. People were nicer, commiserated, stopped bothering her. It didn’t matter that she was born in 1945 and grew up in Brooklyn, happy, healthy, etc. She was a victim. She passed this on to her children… ‘One evening, when Kugel was eight years old, Mother came to his bedroom, brushed the hair from his brow, and told him that it was time he learned about a terrible place known as Buchenwald. She had a large book with her called The Holocaust, and she showed him the photographs inside: mass graves, starved prisoners, piles of naked corpses. That’s your uncle, she would say. That’s your grandfather’s sister. That’s your cousin’s father. What’s that? Kugel asked, pointing to the lamp shade she had placed beside him on the bed. That, she said with a sigh. That’s your grandfather. Then she buried her face in her hands and wept.’

Okay… so you can see the foundation, right? Guilt ridden Jew raised by crazy mom. It’s Woody Allen you say? Yes, I would agree.. but, I actually like Kugel more.

So, imagine Kugel, and his pragmatism, buying an old farmhouse and trying to raise his son in a non-hostile, non Holocaust, environment. Seems the right thing to do… Except… he encounters a slight um.. glitch. He finds an elderly woman… “she was hideous, horribly disfigured, and terribly old—yellowed with age, the left eye clouded with cataracts, dead, unseeing. Her skin, sallow and gray, was thin, almost transparent; the hair on her head, what there was of it, was sparse in some places, bare in others. Her shoulders hunched up around her ears, and a massive hump on her back forced her skull forward so that she faced the ground, head bowed, even when looking straight ahead.”

Kugel.. meet Anne Frank…

Okay, so the story goes… and I won’t tell you more… you should read it. It would make me happy if you read it… but don’t get all defiant and uppity and crap. Just read and enjoy. Have a laugh, and a cry… eat a piece of Ezekial bread… call your mom.

Just breathing isn’t living…
Profile Image for Vio.
252 reviews100 followers
April 1, 2018
O carte excelentă, care mi-a amintit pe alocuri de Dostoievski, Kafka și Beckett. În apărarea mea, chestia asta am gîndit-o în engleză și mă gîndeam să scriu Dostoievski meets Kafka meets Beckett, dar mi-a fost lene să văd cum se scrie Dostoievski în engleză. Bun.

Pentru mine, cu cît știam mai puțin despre cartea asta în special, cu atît mai bine. Nu o să mă intereseze vreodată o carte care ”își face reclamă” cu ”Hitler a fost un optimist”. Plus că mă intrigase teribil o recenzie care conținea pi*damăsii, phii, ce stres.

Pînă la urmă, am constatat întîmplător, am citit toate cărțile lui Shalom Auslander, în ordinea apariției, neintenționată ordine, dar foarte interesantă.

Traducerea e splendidă, bravo, Carmen Scarlat! Cîteva greșeluțe, a fost ok.

Recomand cu mare drag. Zero spoilere de la mine. ;)
913 reviews408 followers
March 28, 2012
Whatever you want to say about Auslander as a Jew, he is a talented writer. As a novelist, though, he leaves a lot to be desired.

Assuming you can tolerate Holocaust irreverence, the concept behind this book was actually clever. A Woody Allen-esque neurotic Jew (Solomon Kugel) moves his wife, child, and mother to a farmhouse in the country only to discover a decrepit Anne Frank living in his attic. There's a lot here. The age-old literary trope of discovering a crazy lady living in your attic and the symbolism there. The idea that, for many American Jews, the crazy lady in the attic is the ghost of the Holocaust that's so difficult to shake no matter how comfortable we may get in America. The irony of juxtaposing Kugel's mother, a very much alive woman with an illusory (though intense) claim on Holocaust experiences, with Anne Frank, a supposedly dead woman with genuine Holocaust associations. And what that means in terms of whether the Holocaust is alive or dead, and the people trying to claim the Holocaust for themselves for their own ends.

I've said a lot, but you may notice that I haven't mentioned plot. Or characters. You know, the things most of us read novels for. That's because there wasn't much of either in this novel. We get a lot of Solomon Kugel's neurotic and nihilistic inner life, ruminating on the concept of hope as something that brings us down. Kugel's wife, Bree, is understandably frustrated with Kugel and his histrionic mother; Anne Frank is foul-mouthed and demanding. So much for characters. I can't even say anything about plot, because the situation was the plot. Kugel feels he has to keep Anne Frank's existence a secret from his family members (why? This was never quite clear to me) while he struggles with the dilemma of what to do about her presence. Kugel fears an arsonist burning down farmhouses in the neighborhood. That about sums it up.

It was a fast read but not fast enough, actually, as I found myself skimming the last half of the book. So it's possible I missed something. But I would say, unless you're morbidly curious about what outrageous thing Auslander may have written (in which case you'll probably be disappointed), don't waste your time on this one.
Profile Image for Kiki.
309 reviews43 followers
February 5, 2012
The first thing that got me interested in this book were the very amusing "book trailers" I saw on the internet last month, featuring the author calling two other well known authors (Sarah Vowell and John Hodgman)in which Mr. Auslander calls his two author friend separately and asks them that if he needs to hide in their attics, would that be possible, and would he and his small family would be welcome? A main theme in this novel is hiding in the attic. The father figure of the family in the book, Solomon Kugel, discovers a certain well know and young victim of the Holocaust is alive and, while not exactly well, is hiding in the attic of the upstate NY house he and his wife have just purchased and moved into, causing all sorts of problems, mainly for him.

I know this sounds like a very unlikely plot, but believe me, Shalom Auslander makes it work. Is it irreverent? Well, kind of, but not really. Somehow, Auslander makes you believe him, and makes you understand this unlikely survivor's many reasons for hiding after all these years. And I laughed quite a bit in certain spots, because Auslander is very funny. Although, you kind of know this guy is doomed. Because that's the other theme of this novel. Hope is a useless lost cause. there is no need for it, because you are going to be met with constant disappointment at all turns. Or so believes the therapist that Sol has been seeing for a while.

This book called to mind a more than a few Woody Allen characters. Guilt ridden, trying to get through life, expecting the worst, and so often facing the worst, Solomon Kugel tries to endure, to overcome the worst, but is constantly met with unfailingly tough opposition, usually in the form of his family (his mother, who maintains she is a Holocaust survivor, although she clearly isn't, his wife a frustrated writer who worries constantly over money, his sister in law and husband, who cannot have children, but try loudly to conceive every time they spend the night, etc.). The book is dark, yes, but also, it is funny.

Shalom Auslander is a very informal writer, he is loose and unstructured, and the style here seems to mimic the life the main character has been living. When an unforeseen change interrupts that usually predictable but relaxed life, the tension becomes thick. Great book, I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Sterlingcindysu.
1,391 reviews51 followers
June 22, 2012
A couple weeks ago, I was helping my sister with a garage sale. It was great weather, but sitting in a garage with no breeze, it was hot. I really didn't think about how hot it was until I went inside, and there with the air conditioning, I couldn't stop sweating! I was SO hot! But outside, not so much.

That's the theme of this book. If you don't know what you're missing, then perhaps you're pretty happy.

It's a quick read and made me LOL at times. If you're the type to rubberneck at a car crash, this is for you.
Profile Image for Ryan.
21 reviews7 followers
June 13, 2012
A recent Facebook post of mine had read "I can't wait until they release a 3D IMAX version of 'Schindler's List'". Someone with whom I have a tenuous Facebook relationship declared that I "was in poor taste." I can't help but think how he would have felt about Auslander's novel.

Personally, I found this novel saturated with biting sarcasm, scathing bitterness, and caustic cynicism...and I loved every word. There is no question that Auslander can write. He's quick and vivid, but that's not why this novel should be praised.

There is a brutal honesty to his story that I would imagine many have already responded with a disgusted "how could he exploit the Jewish plight like that?".

Well, for a number of reasons.

To begin with, this novel isn't just about the Holocaust. Certainly that is one of the many layers to Auslander's story, but I think the overarching theme is "shit hanging over our heads and how to deal with it."

For those who walked away disgusted would, I would argue, take the place of Kugel's mother. It's always about the Holocaust, according to her, and she'll be damned if anyone argues differently. But, as Kugel so aptly diagnoses his mother in the novel, people love to revel in their misery.

Relax. It's not always about you. And when it's not, we need to find a way to make it so. "This lamp is your grandmother." I have to say, I loved the mother's bitterness towards her relatively peaceful youth which mutates into this jealousy at having not suffered the Holocaust.

Relax. It's not always about the Holocaust.

I think the brilliance of this novel is that it stands as a big middle finger who have, in the wake of the shit hitting the fan over the past decade, become ultra-sensitive to the point of becoming obnoxious twits. "Don't run that Mad Men ad, it reminds us too much of 9/11." "Don't write about fires in books with Jews. It reminds us of the Holocaust." Don't this. Don't that. It's shit hanging over my head.

Deal with it, says Auslander. Destroy it if you have to. Stop hoping that people will don't this and don't that.

As dark and scathing as it is, Auslander shows us that hope really is tragic. Hope is just quainter way of saying "I'd really like this to happen, but it's easier to gripe about it and playing the victim is far too entertaining. Plus, wtf would I do if this utopia actually came to fruition?"

Hope, he shows us, segues into paranoia. Kugel spends the bulk of his time painfully preoccupied with the 'what if's' which turn into the 'i hope that sound isn't this,' or 'i hope that smell isn't that'. Ultimately, it's the hope that 'i don't have to deal with the shit hanging over my head'.

Maybe I completely misread this novel. I suspect Auslander would hope I didn't read it expecting to find any specific moral or theme. I hope you do the same.
Profile Image for Rachelle Urist.
282 reviews15 followers
March 17, 2012
Brilliant. Prophetic. Bold. Funny. Visionary. Dares to examine sacrosanct Jewish symbols in the wake of the Holocaust. Humanizes Anne Frank by imagining her alive today, stuck in an attic limbo in a world that wants her dead. Her death is what gave her book its appeal, thinks Solomon Kugel, who moves his family into a new house, far from the maddening crowd, and discovers that Anne Frank has been hiding in the attic for forty years. Before that, she hid in other people's attics. Attics are safe. The world isn't. "Stay dead," one publisher told her, when she presents herself, quite alive, contrary to popular belief. "The world doesn't want you alive. Your diary sold 32 million copies because you're dead." (I paraphrased, but that's the gist.) Through all this, one can't help but imagine Auslander himself asking what he, a living writer, must do to capture the world's attention. Must he, too, die?

While Kugel (who's married to Bree - a Jewish noodle pudding married to French cheese - though "Bree" isn't spelled "Brie") is not a writer, the character is so clearly the writer's alter ego, that I imagined him a writer as I read. His evocation of holocaust-era American Jews (particularly mothers), whose guilt at being spared is the work of genius. This particular mother's imagination, in tandem with her guilt, leads her first to imagine herself in the camps and then to imagine herself an actual survivor. Dialogue between mother and son is excruciatingly funny. I laughed out loud much of the way.

Some of the refrains are uproarious. Kugel returns time and again to possible last words, to tombstone engravings ("here lies Kugel. He had promise" - or words to that effect). These had me chuckling long after I closed the book. Kugel's meditations on hope, his fantasies about heaven and what God might say to souls on arrival, are also winning. But if your tastes don't run to dark humor, if you didn't like FORESKIN'S LAMENT, Auslander's earlier book, you may not love this as I did.

Profile Image for Licha.
732 reviews105 followers
February 2, 2018
It pays off to go library shelf browsing. I've picked up some fantastic books this way. This one had me laughing out loud several times, the unexpected type of humor that would make you spit out your drink if you were drinking while reading.

Kugel is a neurotic worrywart of a man. He has just moved into a new farmhouse. His wife is upset that his mother is living with them and not dying fast enough (I was never able to tell what exactly was wrong with mom as she seemed quite spunky and it was also never mentioned why the wife wanted her out so bad.) He worries about his son growing up in a world filled with cruelty, wishing he had dropped him on his head as a baby so perhaps the harsh realities of life will pass by him unaware. As if that weren't enough to worry him there's someone burning down the farmhouses in the community.

Then Kugel starts to hear a tap, tap in his attic.

The absurdity of him finding that Anne Frank has been living in his attic and will not leave until she finishes writing a book that must surpass the 32 million sold had me laughing and following my daughter around, begging her to let me share passages in the book with her. (Like a typical teenager she will usually wave me off. No, mom. I'm busy. I'm doing homework.)

His mother is hilarious and those are some of the funniest sections of the book.

Great ending that wrapped up the story well.

Profile Image for Sarah.
1,222 reviews35 followers
October 25, 2021
For a book which tells the story of a Jewish man who finds ancient Anne Frank living in his loft writing a book it's amazing that I've finished this with so little so say about.
Profile Image for Lisa.
166 reviews
July 29, 2012
“So desperate was Kugel for things to turn out for the best, proclaimed Professor Jove, that he couldn’t stop worrying about the worst. Hope, said Professor Jove, was Solomon Kugel’s greatest failing."

From the opening pages of Shalom Auslander’s “Hope: A Tragedy” I knew I was reading something special. Consider the plot: a Jewish man who believes his pessimism is fueled by his optimism, buys a farmhouse in a no name town only to discover Anne Frank (yes, the Anne Frank) hiding in his attic. While the premise blurred the lines of political correctness, Auslander asked his readers to take a leap of literary faith and, as his readers came to find out, it was well worth the jump.

The literary tools used by Auslander, particularly the formulation of his prose and the absence of quotation marks, were thought provoking, adding depth to the characters and the plot. The characters were especially rich and multidimensional. Solomon Kugel, the book’s tragic hero, could have easily been an unlikable character with his pessimistic/optimistic internal conflict. However, Auslander presented in him a way that made it difficult not to like or at least root for him. Kugel’s mother was also a widely interesting specimen of a character, giving credence to the notion that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

If my flowery descriptions haven’t given it away, I will confirm that I fell in love with this book. As a result, I am having a hard time articulating this review because, as with romantic love, it is hard to pinpoint why I feel so strongly. There was just something in the way Auslander crafted the story. It had the right mix of humor and thoughtfulness, sense and nonsense. Take this example:
“Knock, knock, Professor Jove would answer.
Knock Knock.
Who’s there, she would mumble feebly.
Death who?
Death, Anne. Death. You’re dying.
I don’t get it.
There’s nothing to get. It’s over. You’re fucked.”
It was a joke I knew I shouldn’t be laughing at but the execution was so flawless that I couldn’t help myself.

And while I loved the refreshing Anne Frank storyline, I was also completely enamored by the subplot that addressed Kugel’s thoughts on hope, optimism, and pessimism. Auslander provoked intriguing questions to the reader through Kugel’s character: Is hope really a good thing? Can hope actually make our lives worse? Is it wise to have hope in an afterlife and believe there could be a place better than Earth? Auslander’s questions and statements were naturally existential and while I am not sold on the notion that hope is inherently tragic, the concept did give me pause. If a book can get you to think about things you have never previously thought about, or at a minimum, touch upon dormant topics in your mind, then I’d say the book is doing a whole lot of things right. And that’s why I read.
814 reviews146 followers
March 18, 2012
3.5, at times.
Despite your personal feelings toward Auslander's outrageousness, I don't think anyone can deny that he has talent. And while this talent shines through in his first novel, it also wears thin, because there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Auslander writes this book as a cross between Philip Roth and Dave Barry, by which I mean you have a dead on, clearly 'been there done that' and resented it depiction of whiny wanna be Holocaust people - ie, ones who capitalize on it and turn it into its own religion and, all the more fittingly, don't even actually have any association with the war - done in a satirical, holds no punches witty style. This is a big pet peeve of mine so while genuine survivors and feelers might find this book offensive, I really enjoyed that, especially because Auslander did, I feel, take pains to keep it restricted to people who weren't even there.
Anyway, the book centers around Kugel, a neurotic figure much like the guy in one of the John Irving books, the one where the dad is terrified that something will happen to his kids and so of course something horrible does, and his recent purchase of a farm house appealing because it's in a nondescript town that feels like a relief after the city.
Well, non descript except that one day he discovers Anne Frank, very much alive, in his attic, working on her second book. This creates tension in an already tense home because Kugel has allowed his ailing (though not quickly enough) Holocaust wanna be mother live with them, and an indignant tenant whose rent they need and would like to have another were it not for the fact that the mother (and Anne) are there, and then their little son Jonah, and Kugel's angry wife Bree.
From a 'good read' perspective, this is a smart and funny book, and a pleasant outpouring of witty observations of the crazies around us. From a craft perspective, this book left a lot to be desired - it often 'outfunnied' itself by which I mean Auslander got a little carried away - it got ridiculous and absurd, and the writing often suffered for his unchecked whimsy. It also wore thin given that there wasn't much here but an attempt to spin the paranoia of post Holocaust in a funny way, which it did, but one does not need a novel for that.
Auslander is a talented guy and this book did not disappoint, per se, but that is also because I wasn't expecting anything great, which it is not.
Profile Image for Mircalla .
649 reviews89 followers
July 27, 2014
quando il postmodernismo impatta con l'umorismo ebraico...

Auslander è ormai un personaggio con caratteristiche precise, il suo io narrante è un ebreo nevrotico, che si odia un po' e un altro po' si compatisce, ha molta paura, vive di sensi di colpa e sotto sotto teme tutto quel che lo circonda e teme anche che il suo Dio sia davvero la persona vendicativa e irosa del Vecchio Testamento
per cui prima di fare qualsiasi cosa deve pensarci bene, ponderare le possibili conseguenze e evitare ogni forma di conflitto
a questo punto dell'introduzione il nostro scopre che nella sua soffitta abita niente meno che Anna Frank, scampata all'Olocausto e un tantino sbroccata...che fare?

in tutto questo bailamme si notano delle leggere modifiche allo stile asciutto che ha caratterizzato i precedenti libri, qui abbiamo l'inserimento di uno dei cardini della letteratura postmoderna: il tormentone
quello di Prove per un incendio è un tormentone che somiglia più a quelli di Palahniuk, che a quelli di Leyner, è un semplice, ma efficacissimo elenco di Ultime Parole di personaggi famosi...
il tutto condito da grandi riferimenti alla cultura americana del post undici settembre e alla tendenza ebraica a rannicchiarsi intorno al proprio passato...
finale fulminante e anche un pochino cinico
ma tutto sommato efficace
Profile Image for Sid Nuncius.
1,128 reviews105 followers
October 8, 2015
I thought this was a fantastic book. Irreverent doesn't come close to describing it and as a result I often found it very funny indeed and regularly laughed out loud while reading it. However, it is also very touching and insightful, and uses its outrageous premise and its humour to say some very important things about how our lives are affected by our approach to our histories and to hope, grief and fear.

My grandparents and others of my family perished in the Holocaust, so I am well aware that it is a serious, dreadful and deeply tragic event which still exerts a powerful influence and inflicts awful grief and suffering on many people. There is plenty of great literature about all of this by people like Primo Levi, André Schwarz-Bart, Tadeusz Borowski (to whom Auslander makes a sly, witty reference a one point) and many others. There is also plenty of other stuff like Sophie's Choice which I have found obnoxiously exploitative. This book is neither. It is shrewd and funny and in my view a profound book which never mocks the tragedy of the Holocaust itself, but dares to treat attitudes to the Holocaust with something other than awe-struck reverence and uncritical acceptance, summed up in the brilliant observation, "Never forgetting the Holocaust is not the same as never shutting up about it."

The book satirises the embracing of despair and using historic grief as an excuse to evade real, present-day challenges and responsibilities. Auslander paints a merciless and brilliantly funny satirical portrait of a Holocaust-obsessed mother who will not accept the "unhorrible truth that life, tragically, hadn't been so bad," and who pretends have been intimately involved in the Holocaust, indulging in a permanent "Misery Olympics" in which her pain must be greater than anyone else's. There is a brief but telling competitive conversation between two people about who has lost more relatives in the Holocaust and whose opinion should therefore carry more authority, a wonderful satire of a personal counsellor who maintains that hope and aspiration are responsible for the world's problems: if we all effectively hid in an attic expecting and doing nothing then we would never be disappointed and would cause nothing bad to happen, and so on. The book is full of these gems.

Beneath the wit and satire is genuine erudition, often used to terrific comic effect - Spinoza and his mother's deathbed keep popping up, for example, and regularly had me doubled over with laughter. There is real content here, too. Auslander explicitly speaks of the damage which may be done if anyone, not just Jews, defines themselves strongly - as individuals, as an ethnic or religious group or as a nation - by past injustice or injury. It seems to me that Auslander is saying to all of us that our histories are important but that life is here and now and needs to be lived.

There is much more that I would like to say, but this review is probably too long already. I loved this book and if, like me, you share its sense of humour you will find it profound, touching, wise and often very, very funny. I recommend it very warmly.
Profile Image for Allan.
50 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2012
Darkly comic and wallowing in pessimism, Hope: A Tragedy, a first novel from Shalom Auslander, is heavy with guilt and light as air. It’s a brilliant read.[return][return]Solomon Kugel has brought his wife and young son to Stockton, a small uninspired town in upstate New York, to begin life afresh, make a new start and shake off whatever bad breaks dumped them here. Unfortunately he must bring along his old dying mother, a non-holocaust survivor who nevertheless has taken on all the guilt and anxiety of one who feels she should have been there — and in fact would have made a good victim. Dementia is beginning to strip away her anchor to the real world and paranoia and delusion fill her waking hours. [return][return]More troubling is the discovery of an intruder that has taken up residence in the attic — a particularly fowl, high-maintenance intruder that may in fact be one of the most iconic examples of the tragedy of Jewish persecution during World War II.[return][return]Early in this narrative Solomon, through the influence of his confessor, Professor Jove, realizes that “hope” is the problem, “hope is irrational…when someone rises up and promises that things are going to be better, run. Hide. Pessimists don’t build gas chambers.”[return][return]We watch as Solly quickly spirals into his own madness of guilt and compensation. He is trying to manage history and suffering but is leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. His blinders are particularly annoying when he cannot see or at least respond to the needs of his immediate family.[return][return]Besides his mother and his famous holocaust-survivor attic dweller, Solomon must deal with the threat of an arsonist who is loose in the neighborhood torching farmhouses similar to his own.[return][return]None of this sounds particularly comic, but Shalom Auslander’s first novel is full of angst, wit and moral musings that make for a wonderfully fun (and sad) book.
Profile Image for Allan.
478 reviews68 followers
July 4, 2014
Having read and enjoyed Auslander's memoir, 'Foreskin's Lament', I'd thought about buying this novel quite a few times before finding it in a second hand shop. The fact that a novel is classed as 'funny' several times often has me worried as to how I'll like it, and to be honest, I wish I hadn't bothered reading this book.

Set in NY State, the novel concentrates on Solomon Kugel, a neurotic, pessimistic character, almost playing to what in the past may have been considered a stereotypical Jewish character. He worries about everything, to the point where his internal monologue is grating. The situations he finds himself involved in are often ludicrous-his mother's issues and his struggles with his tenant are a couple-but situations no more ludicrous than when it is revealed who is hiding in his attic.

I have to say that I did laugh a few times toward the start of the novel, but as the book went on, I found it harder to suspend my disbelief, to the point that I was flicking over every few pages to see how long I had left to the end. As it came to the end, I had no real interest in what happened, and when we finally reached the climax, my main reaction was 'Meh.'

Not a book that I'd recommend, and not an author that I'll rush to read again.
Profile Image for Ralu.
165 reviews75 followers
April 12, 2022

N-a fost compatibilitate cu umorul mult trâmbițat de coperta 4 si de ceilalți cititori. M-am luptat efectiv cu textul ca să-l termin. Poate pur si simplu n-a picat intr-o perioada istorică propice, nu stiu. Cert e ca pana in momentul de fata, e cartea care mi-a displăcut cel mai mult anul ăsta.
Profile Image for Razvan Zamfirescu.
521 reviews80 followers
June 18, 2014
Solomon Kugel colecţionează ultime cuvinte rostite înainte de moarte, are o mamă care se consideră supravieţuitoare a Holocaustului, ceea ce şi este, chiar dacă a trăit pe un alt continent decât Europa, sechelată de nazişti, deşi nu a suferit niciodată persecuţie din parte lor pentru că a crescut în America, o casă care pute a pişat şi rahat şi pe o Anne Frank al naibii de bătrână care încearcă să scrie un roman care să depăşeaşcă bariera de vânzări a Jurnalului scris în tinereţe.
Ah, da şi este terorizat de un incendiator care-şi face de cap în oraşul său. Oare când îi va veni rândul şi lui Kugel şi cine îi va incendia, dacă o va face, casa?
Primele zeci de pagini m-au lăsat cu gura căscată. Nu am înţeles ce încerca să facă Auslander cu acest personaj care este întruchiparea cinismului, antisemit până peste poate, crud şi răutăcios, suferind de anhedonie, mucalit şi, cireaşa de pe tort, evreu. Kugel este un alienat par excellence. Un fel de alter-ego, aş îndrăzni să spun al autorului al cărui nume, Ausländer, înseamnă tocmai străin. Cu alte cuvinte, Salutare, Străine – un nume care se potriveşte cum nu se poate mai bine cu ceea ce vei găsi în această carte.
Pe tot parcursul cărţii am încercat să descifrez ce încearcă scriitorul să transmită, ce şi de ce construieşte ce contruieşte. După ce am terminat-o eram împărţit între a crede că este o cărţulie scrisă la nervi, un fel de răbufnire adolescentină la adresa propriului neam şi amintirilor pe care acesta nu ezită să i le arunce constant în cârcă, sau un roman al naibii de cinic în stilul lui Woody Allen. Într-un final am ajuns la concluzia că Shalom Auslander este un răutăcios mucalit, un fel de Diogene contemporan, care latră la tot ce-i iese în cale, singura lesă ce-l poate domoli fiind lesa corectitudinii politice.
Kugel/Auslander este un străin camusian în cel mai filosofic sens al personajului Mersault. Fără umbră, fără dorinţa expresă de a participa la jocul social, un om care nu este golit de sentimente ci, pur şi simplu, le-a piedut în drumul spre maturitate datorită suferinţelor unui neam în care nu se regăseşte, suferinţe urcate-n cârca sa de către o mamă care retrăieşte prigoana nazistă cu ciuda persoanei care a văzut de la distanţă crimele la care a fost supusă seminţia din care face parte.
Romanul este extrem de amuzant şi teribil de trist. Această carte este o farsă, categoric o farsă, însă, trebuie să recunosc că nu am înţeles foarte bine la adresa cui. Anne Frank care se uşurează în sistemul de încălzire, aerisire care străbate toată casa şi împute toate camerele este o imagine gen vodevil, dar care este şchepsisul? S-a săturat lumea de Holocaust şi de supravieţuitori? Îşi aruncă Anne Frank dejecţiile în capul celor care au condamnat-o la inexistenţă tocmai pentru a-i vinde constant jurnalul? Ce înseamnă a fi supravieţuitor? Şi care mai este rolul acestuia într-o societate care pare că vrea să se scuture de memoria Holocaustului?
Nimic nu scapă de limba ascuţită a lui Auslander. Nici evrei, nici creştini, nici relaţiile familiale, nici părinţi, nici politicieni, toţi sunt trecuţi prin sita aspră a cinismului unui scriitor cu un simţ al absurdului care nu are cum să nu te cucerească. Umorul lui Auslander este fin şi aproape fiecare glumă are un şchepsis şi aproape fiecare cugetare a lui Solomon Kugel are un mesaj ascuns ce spune mai mult decât pare la prima vedere. Romanul este atât o delectare cât şi un galop sănătos care-ţi pune mintea la contribuţie pentru a înţelege subtilităţile cinice à la Woody Allen.
Recomand lecturarea acestui roman chiar dacă este o recomandare destul de periculoasă având în vedere faptul că glumele lui Auslander nu sunt chiar uşor de digerat.
P.S. citat aproximativ din carte:
Ce a spus Iisus când a fost urcat pe cruce?
Profile Image for Sherril.
267 reviews58 followers
July 12, 2020
Somewhere between ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2 and
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️.
Hope to come back for a review. Ok, it’s over a month since I finished this book. Martha Richey, this one’s for you.

I first became aware of both the book and author, Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander from an article I read in the online Forward Magazine by Talya Zax in which she derides several male authors who felt the need to resurrect Ann Frank and consequently write the “what if” books about Her life. The cited authors and works were: Phillip Roth’s The Ghost Writer, David Gillham’s Annelies, Shalom Auslander’s Hope: A Tragedy and to a lesser extent, Nathan Englander’s What We Mean When We Talk About Ann Frank. I just reread the article and concluded this to be the main point. For most women who have read The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank, their first encounter with it was as a young girl. Often the book made a profound and lasting impression. We as young female readers found much that was relatable. Oftentimes, those of us who were Jewish were left with a strong fear that one day there would be a banging at our doors, after which the Nazi soldiers would come bursting inside and take us away. The male authors, on the other hand, often came to Ann Frank and her book as men, not children. And their relationship and prescription to both the book and the author were quite different than that if girls and women.

Shalom Auslander, who imagined an Ann Frank who survived and not only survived, but was hiding away in the attic of his home which he had relatively recently purchased and moved into. She is there at age 80+, frantically writing her adult novel which she’s been typing away at for years, since the original owners lived in the house. When they sold it they didn’t mention that Ann was living upstairs in the attic. As noted, Shalom Auslander had not read Ann Frank’s Diary before writing his novel. He has been quoted as saying, “By the time I was 18 I hated her (Ann Frank) because she stood for my ultimate demise.” For Auslander, she was more a symbol than a real person, then a young girl with an incredible literary skill. For Auslander, Ann represented the symbol of what it is to be Jewish, having to suffer with the proverbial albatross (i.e. the Holocaust) always hanging around your neck. It was only after he wrote his novel that he did finally read the Diary and only then had this to say about it. “It was the fire in her, a beautiful fire…”. I was left to wonder, had he read The Diary of a Young Girl prior to writing his book, would he have written the same book?

In any case, reading Hope: A Tragedy is like watching a Woody Allen movie On Steroids. It’s like saying, take the guilt out of Judaism and what’s left? Nothing! It’s like turning Ann Frank on her head and leaving her there. Many people found this book to be very funny. It was satirical, sardonic, cynical and yes, it was funny, but for the most part, it was offensive. Still, I’m glad I read it.
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1,538 reviews76 followers
June 18, 2012
I found this book outrageously funny, but I am sure it's not everyone's cup of tea. The premise struck me as so ridiculous when I read about it that I still can't figure out why I decided to read it, but I am glad I did because it was laugh-out-loud funny despite the absurdity. Here it is: present day, a rural community in New York state where Solomon Kugel buys a beautiful old house in the country and moves in his family including his lovely wife, 3 year old son and cranky old mother. He discovers to his horror that Anne Frank is living in his attic. She is ancient and mean and smells horrid, but she is, after all, THE Anne Frank, so what can he do but devote his life to granting her every wish.

Clearly Anne Frank symbolizes the burden of guilt of the Holocaust, and you may well wonder what can be humorous about this. The author is so clever that I kept thinking he was meeting a challenge: after all, it's not every author who can skillfully inject levity into this gloomy subject. In the story, Sol thinks back on his childhood, being raised by his mother in a single-parent household with the ever present theme of her suffering through the Holocaust. She raised him from an early age to believe that all of his forefathers had perished in WWII, and that she had narrowly escaped with her life. When he was in the sixth grade his teacher took his class to a Holocaust museum and he burst into tears when he saw a life-size poster of a woman he thought was his mother as a girl. His classmates were sympathetic when he explained the cause of his outburst until his teacher said, ". . .That's not your mother. . .Your mother's my age, Solomon, . . .she wasn't even born when that photo was taken. And she was born in Brooklyn. . . .We went to Camp Sackamanoff together. Up in the Catskills. The food was awful, young man, but it was a far cry from Auschwitz."

Even after he confronts his mother with these inconsistencies, she lives out the myth and eventually he decides to go along with it. I know it seems too silly for belief and that is why I couldn't give it 5 stars, but any book that is this outrageously irreverent and humorous deserves a read. More to the point, with all the serious and dramatic books we read, we deserve the belly-laughs this book provides.
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