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Everything Is Illuminated

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3.9  ·  Rating details ·  152,932 Ratings  ·  7,414 Reviews
A young man arrives in the Ukraine, clutching in his hand a tattered photograph. He is searching for the woman who fifty years ago saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Unfortunately, however, he is aided in his quest by Alex, a translator with an uncanny ability to mangle English into new forms; a 'blind' old man haunted by memories of the war; and an undersexed guide dog ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published June 5th 2003 by Penguin Group (first published April 16th 2002)
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Kim
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes reading makes me so angry

Dammit.

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

Ugh.

Why, Jonathan Safran Foer? Why? Why do you do this to me? And why the hell are you so young? I know that some call you gimmicky and think that you are just a phosphoresce in the pannikin (yes, I, too, have access to Thesaurus.com) but I just…just…spleen them. They can read their Anderson and their Coetzee and leave us dreamers alone. I am ‘Team Foer’; others be damned. (I still wish you weren’t so f
...more
Mike
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I watched the movie of this first and loved it. It was basically a movie about cultural misunderstanding and how people can be cruel without really knowing it. It is a story about what happens when you put an American and someone born out of the Soviet era in the same room and try to make them explain to one another why the other one thinks the way they do. In a word: hilarious.

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

My, what a clever novel!

In any case, that, I imagine, is what Jonathan Safran Foer kept saying as he was writing this. And really, much about it is clever. The comparisons to A Clockwork Orange are completely unwarranted, as Alex, Foer's Ukrainian hero, destroys the English language in a quite different way than does Burgess' Alex. (A less politically correct but more conceptually accurate comparison would be Charlie Chan, as written
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
You are burned out. So you suggested to your wife that the whole family spend the weekend in a beach resort. You left the house in the morning, drove the whole day and arrived at the resort few hours before the sunset. You dropped your things, donned your beach wear, went barefoot and hurriedly went straight to the shore. The sand is not sugar-like but the pain is bearable. The wind is a bit cold and it gives you slight chills. You dip your feet into the water. It is still lukewarm since the sun ...more
Jason
One of the nice things about being stoned is the added dimension of humor or profundity that otherwise inconsequential things can assume in our impression of them. I remember once having my mind blown at the idea of language, and how any two unrelated people, having been raised in the same country and while having no connection at all to each other, or there being any crossover among those who have taught or influenced them, can meet each other one day and have a mutually intelligible conversati ...more
emma
when it's 1:20 a.m. and you're thinking about your favorite book of the year (so far) again and you realize you never posted your review and you just havetohavetohaveto let everyone know how much you loved it.

Ho-ly shit.

https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...

This book was incredible. Truly. I’ve taken the last hour or two to just kind of continue with my life and try to absorb that experience. Because even though I’ve been reading this book for almost three weeks (bananas long for me), it still
...more
Matthieu
Oct 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthieu by: K.
Gimmicks as substance.
Bram
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Everything Is Illuminated is one of the most focused books I’ve read. It doesn’t meander inappropriately, and there’s almost no excess. Seriously, this book’s got less fat than Christian Bale in The Machinist. It's either in full-on comedy mode, full-on fanciful mode, full-on drama mode, or some well-balanced combination of the three. Foer spent years editing the novel from his initial college thesis draft, and it shows—in a good way. There's no lag, and given some of the other books I was readi ...more
BlackOxford
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, american
Funny In a Tragic Way

What would the English of a bright Ukrainian who had learnt it largely from local pop culture and a thesaurus sound like? Hilarious actually. Especially in the telling of a tale which has both been told so many times, and can never be told adequately: the Holocaust.

There are two protagonists, the author, a young Jewish man off to find his roots in a now famous but obliterated shtetl near the Polish/Ukrainian border; and a young, ambitious lad from a disfunctional family in
...more
Ben
Jul 19, 2007 rated it did not like it
Sorry but I didn't care for this at all. If Mr. Nobody wrote a book about himself as the main character, and used some uninventive malapropisms to make discussions with a foreigner amusing, the book would be tossed. But wait, Foer went to Yale. Unfortunately for me the quality of his writing shows me that nepotism will always beat out merit these days. Sorry to be harsh, but really, I found the writing to be quite poor.
Beth
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tea Jovanović
Jedna od onih neobičnih "otkačenih" knjiga koje mi s vremena na vreme nalete i osveže mi dan... Imala sam zadovoljstvo da je čitam u rukopisu pre objavljivanja... Mnogo kasnije nastao je film... Knjiga je, nažalost, kod nas prošla nezapaženo i srećom u međuvremenu mu se promenio izdavač... Koji će možda više učiniti za ovog autora jer on to zaslužuje... Ako volite Marka Haddona ili Dana Rhodesa... ovo je autor za vas... :)
Fabian
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The picaresque interchange between youths is like a more irreverent' albeit magic-natural take on Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The imperfect prisms, the barriers of language of history and the imagination all these tools of literary alchemy are proudly on display. It attempts to hide the real theme of pathos inherent in all immigrant stories, & that the reader desires desperately to unearth it like nothing else. (Ingeniously, in EiI, a potato falling to the ground becomes a thing of singular be ...more
Nathan Pearson
The gut-tickling malaprop voice of Alex, bragging falsely (but without a trace of guile) in a broken idiolect that suggests computer translation gone awry, is worth the price of admission all by itself. Sadly, the rest of the book -- much of it strung out in unimaginative flashback episodes -- is a turgid, half-baked mess. Reading just Alex's bits and ignoring the rest would be a bit like picking out all the chocolate chips from a bag of trailmix...but that may be the best way to snack here.
Shovelmonkey1
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like the arcane and the bizarre
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list

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

Let's examine the evidence:

Gripping, entertaining, dazzling - The Evening Standard
Outrageous, extraordinary - Financial Times
Hilarious, exhilarating, moving - Jewish Chronicle
Serious, funny - Herald
Powerful, shocking, harsh, sincere - List
Spectacular, funny, brilliant, moving - Observer
S
...more
Brian Godsey
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Brian by: Sammyatmiami
If I haven't laid out my good-book-philosophy yet, then I'll do it here. It needs to be done some time, or else any reviews I write would be somewhat out of context. So, here goes:

To me, there are two main parts, or aspects, of a book. One is the story, and the other is the way it is written. When I say "story", I mean everything that happens in the book, as it would happen in real life (or some other life, in sci-fi), while the "way it is written" is, of course, the words that are chosen to des
...more
Steve
Mar 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When JSF was a freshman at Princeton he took Intro to Writing with JCO (Joyce Carol Oates). She told him he possessed the most important trait a writer can have: energy. I guess I can see the evidence of that in this, his first novel, published when he was only 25. It was based on real-life research he had done in the Ukraine trying to find the woman in an old family picture who helped is grandfather escape the Nazis. He put a fictionalized wrapper around all this that bundled not only the famil ...more
Amy | shoutame
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, adult
One of my best reads of this year so far! Straight into my goodreads favourites!

- This novel follows the story of Jonathan, a young man who is visiting Ukraine in the hopes of discovering the woman who saved his Grandfather from the Nazis fifty years before. On arriving in Ukraine Jonathan meets his translator, Alex who will be aiding him with his search. Along with Alex is Alex's Grandfather and his dog, Sammy David Jr, Jr. Their mission takes them around Ukraine and they slowly begin to uneart
...more
Graeme Hinde
This gets an extra star for a truly funny gag that carries the book for the first fifty or sixty pages. That's surprising and impressive mileage for a simple bit (the narrator, a non-native English speaker, relies heavily on a thesaurus, so that "a hard journey" is "a rigid journey"), but after it wears off -- grinding agony.

Foer wants to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but his magic is insipid and his realism is lazily dishonest. He consistently goes for an easy lie over a more complex truth. For e
...more
Alex
Aug 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Jonathan Safran Foer comes with a full bag of tricks, all of which he uses in an attempt to dazzle you out of seeing what this book actually is, which is corny. Safran Foer calls himself the product of a sampling culture, but there's more of an air of desperation about this book, which employs play dialogue, diary excerpts, run-on sentences, and like three pages straight of ellipses. The lead character is a Ukrainian named Alex who's gone thesaurus-happy, with an effect that starts off funny and ...more
Sharon
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Foer.

Not sure if he's a genius or overrated or both. There are literary devices in here that made me roll my eyes on multiple occasions, for instance: 1) inserting the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, into the novel (and not like Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee have cameos in their movies; Jonathan is present in this book), 2) abandoning all grammar and sentence structure to stress that something horrifying and tragic is happening ( ...or that Foer is ready to end his novel), and 3) relying
...more
Nils Samuels
Jul 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: twenty-somethings
I could go on and on about how what is clever at 25 grows less so as we age, about how metafiction resonates more with young men who have yet to face the issues that do have enduring meaning in life (durational love, children, divorce, death), about how tapping into the Holocaust for emotional weight seems increasingly to be cheating. But enough. There are already mixed reviews that discuss the limits of this novel. Read those. Smart but not especially emotionally or psychologically interesting.
Lucy
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is hard to piece together. It's even harder to write about.

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

Whatever it actually is about, Jonathan Safran Foer seems to be too odd of a man, and definitely too odd of an author, to define the book or narrow its focus. The minute the reader does, Foer changes the temp
...more
MJ Nicholls
Jan 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Foer's bizarre mix of eroticism and WWII horror is somewhat disquieting. I found myself torn between arousal, boredom, horror, and laughter. At times the writing borders on histrionic – the melodrama between the grandfather’s lovers becomes ludicrous, and Foer exhibits the excruciating desire to excavate each human emotion from his personnel as his contemporary Lydia Millet.

That said, the one stream-of-consciousness scene turns out to be the most powerful moment in the novel. Which is quite an a
...more
Wen
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I had performed recklessly well in my second year of English at university. This was a very majestic thing I did because my instructor was having shit between his brains.” Said Alex.
Two revelations shortly after starting the book: 1) I’m gonna have quite a joyride with Alex; 2) My English education in China was far from "first-rate". I had to look up “spleen...,
Corny as it seemed, Alex quickly won me over, and I found myself keep looking forward to the return to his narratives.
If without the,
...more
Howard
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A twenty-year old American Jew, whose name just happens to be Jonathan Safran Soer, travels to Ukraine in an effort to locate the site of the village of Trachimbrod that was razed by the Nazis in 1942. In doing so, the invaders executed practically all of the village’s Jewish inhabitants. He is also on a quest to find a woman named Augustine whom he believes helped his grandfather to escape the Nazis. To assist him, he hires the services of the Heritage Touring Company. Since the owner’s son, Al ...more
ElizaBeth
Mar 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, specifically Nathan and Adam
I was in pain from laughing so much during the first part of this book. I've never enjoyed a "non-native" English speaker's writing so much. Although it gets less funny and more serious as it progresses, and it occasionally treads on the unclear / confusing side of things, I think that's just part of it: you aren't supposed to fully understand everything that's happening. All in all, one of the most memorable books I've read in a while.
Patryx
E se dobbiamo batterci per un futuro migliore, non dobbiamo conoscere il nostro passato e riconciliarci con esso?

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

In a nutshell, Everything Is Illuminated is an amalgam of three interconnected stories. The first is that of a young Jewish American (bearing the same name as the author) who visits the Ukraine in an a
...more
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10,419 followers
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of two bestselling, award-winning novels, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a bestselling work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.” 3934 likes
“He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad. 2672 likes
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