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The World to Come

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  7,597 ratings  ·  1,016 reviews
A million-dollar Chagall is stolen from a museum during a singles' cocktail hour. The unlikely thief, former child prodigy Benjamin Ziskind, is convinced that the painting once hung in his parents' living room. This work of art opens a door through which we discover his family's startling history--from an orphanage in Soviet Russia where Chagall taught to suburban New Jers ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 27th 2006)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  7,597 ratings  ·  1,016 reviews


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Fabian
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unpredictable & not at all pedantic like other modern works, "The World to Come" is about heaven and did indeed serve as an anesthetic at times (it's January for g*dsakes!). A cloudy feeling sometimes fills the room. It is a book about faith: if you DO have it, then "The World to Come" will make you smile, wide, like Cheshire cat. It speaks of so many different themes, has stories within stories that validate a pulsating thesis: Live life. & discover for yourself its multidimensional complexity. ...more
Christia
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely exquisite, beautifully written book! I loved the Yiddish folklore included throughout the book (especially the story of the already born returning to heaven to prepare the not yet born for their lives) and the ideas of the not yet borns "eating" art and "drinking" literature in heaven in preparation for their future life on earth. The author tells the story of a Chagall painting and the impact it has on all the individuals within three generations of the family who come to possess ...more
Ty Powers
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books, if you're an aspiring writer, that either inspires you to take the plunge and give birth to that novel that's been lurking in your heart since you were fifteen or (to continue the swimming pool/underwater birth analogy) intimidates you back into the dressing room, forces you to put your street clothes back on, and makes you seriously think about giving up all creative endeavors to become an accountant. At a tire store.

This book amazed me. I borrowed it from a friend
...more
Petra
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
This was a lovely story. It contains Jewish history, family history, family saga, artwork, writing, forgeries, Jewish mythology and more. It's a lot to be contained in these pages. And it works. Dara Horn manages to show, through a painting, a family and a history that being able to recognize the real from the forgery is what matters most.
I loved the Jewish mythology or legends sprinkled throughout. The paradise of the Mortals & Natals is marvelous.
Well told, great story, wonderful imagery.
I
...more
Colleen
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
In the beginning I had such high hopes for this book. The story got off to a very intriguing start when a man, Benjamin Ziskind, walks out of a museum with a Chagall painting he believes used to hang in his parents' house. The story then flashes back in time to Russia in the 1920s to begin to explain how the Ziskind family acquired the painting. I loved the parallel stories and though I sometimes found it hard to follow the connections, I figured it would be explained in time. And I grew to like ...more
lucky little cat
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A celebration of storytelling and art that is (most likely deliberately) overwhelming.


Original gif design by Pamela Chougne

This wistful, often tragic multi-generational tale centers on one Jewish family's experiences in the post-WWII USSR and subsequently in New York City. The author perfectly convincingly includes artist Mark Chagall as an influential character.

Some readers will undoubtedly love this book, which is packed with endearing, even inspiring, characters. But I grew impatient
...more
Greg
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had one complaint it's that the book was a bit too short. A great sweeping family drama mixed with magical fables and the wonder filled parts of religion (well Genesis actually). From my recent reviews it seems like the path to me loving a book is to have some combination of Angels (Children's Hospital) and/or violent Soviet oppression (Europe Central). This one had both.
Jonfaith
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Manufactured misery. This effort reeks of the university workshop. Assembly was required. Ms. Horn appears to have taken the template of Nicole Krauss and where the latter has a character confront or be molded by The Shoah/Stalin/La Junta; Horn eschews the pivotal "Or" and asks why not cobble on a Chernobyl and Vietnam as well? You may think some characters are mistreated. My constructions really suffer from History (and goyim).

I already hated this novel when the absurdity was suddenly amplifie
...more
Laurie Notaro
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Loved it. Beautifully written, the tale weaves between new history and old history, through the current state and heritage of the main characters. The ending was lovely, even though it took several days for me to figure it out. I will read anything by Dara Horn. Highly recommend, this book was thoughtfully and carefully plotted, woven precisely and wonderfully done.
Chrissie
I am adding this paragraph a few days later b/c somehow I think my previous review misses the mark. If I were to read the below review I might not be interested in a novel filled with bizarre philosophical thoughts and symbolism. Think of art, that too can be analysed to pieces and I hate that. It either moves you or it doesn't and the causes are different for different people. Well this book is like that too. See it as a wonderful piece of art that you can spend some time with. The quotes below ...more
Judy
Oh my, what this book put me through! Elation, wonder, perplexity, depression and back to a cautious wonder. It is jam packed with 20th century Jewish history, art, Yiddish literature, families with mysterious pasts, and perhaps the strangest philosophy of life I have ever encountered.

The story centers on Benjamin Ziskind and his twin sister Sara. They had that bond that twins often have in childhood but it has weakened in adulthood. Ben was a child prodigy who now writes questions for a quiz s
...more
Ron Charles
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dara Horn's debut, In the Image, was one of the best novels you never heard of in 2002. Although it didn't generate the popular acclaim won by Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, it was a forerunner of their novels about precocious, grief-stricken young Jews searching for lost loved ones with the help of very old guides. Horn's lovely new novel, "The World to Come", builds directly on her earlier work, but it confirms that she won't rise into the Foer-Krauss hip-o-sphere. A doctoral candidat ...more
Hannah
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
2 Stars - Okay book


This book is mediocre at best. For some reason still unknown to me I had really high expectations for this one. No one I know has read this and I didn't really read any reviews about it. I guess my expectations came from thinking that the story was interesting. I don't know.

This book reminded me of a combination of The Goldfinch and People of the Book because a painting was stolen and the time hoping/Jewish artifact respectively. That may sound like a good combination to some,
...more
Roberta
Jun 26, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: really can't recommend it
I almost gave this only one star, very rare for me. And I can see from other reviews that I'm squarely in the minority. I got the CD version to "read" during a car trip with my husband and had high hopes because I had read positive reviews of other books by Horn. But....two stars because there are very interesting themes and a lot of insightful forays into human behavior...but...to me she was desperately in need of a good editor. Long, long passages to make a point that was made over and over. T ...more
Dennis Fischman
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"What made her angry was art that no one looked at, things that were hidden that needed to be seen." This remark on p. 203 of The World to Come is really about the author herself. Dara Horn uses this book to unearth Yiddish stories from Itzik Manger and Nachman of Bratzlav, I.L. Peretz and Der Nister (who is a character in the book as well). The stories have almost been obscured forever by the decline of Yiddish. But they are wonderful stories that leave whorls in your brain. They are stories th ...more
Shanna
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
One of my friends said that she didn't like Jonathan Safran Foer because he threw in so many heart-breaking images without ever really explaining them, just kind of jamming them together.
This was like that, except a lot of the imagery wasn't particularly heart-breaking, the writing wasn't particularly good, and there were a lot of loose ties left at the end of the novel.
More than anything, I didn't end up caring about any of these characters.
Lisa Reads & Reviews
This is a difficult book for me to rate. I'd say 2.5 stars and I'd have liked to give it 3 stars but parts irritated me so much I can't say I enjoyed it overall, nor would I recommend it. For example, the constant referral to the dimples under characters' noses was interesting at first, then predictable and made me laugh (not in a good way), then felt just plain annoying to the point I wanted to throttle the words. On the other hand, I enjoyed the Yiddish folklore. That and the topic of reincarn ...more
Juliana
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most affecting books that I've read. The story and its themes stayed with me for months after I read it. Today, as I am pregnant, I think about one of the great ideas presented in the book about how everyone in your family before you, who has passed on, contributing something essential to the lives of those not yet born. I loved the characters---and the way the story took a piece of art work (in this case by Marc Chagall) and gave it a personal history. I would recommend this ...more
Maggie Anton
I found this novel fascinating, beautifully written, and wonderfully creative - especially the final chapter. I appreciated all the Jewish references and how Horn resurrected so many forgotten Yiddish writers. So why only 4 stars instead of 5? Because the characters' stories were so darn sad, so much death and despair. Also because I found myself unable to identify with any of the protagonists; none of them seemed like real people. Eventually I didn't want to care about them after realizing they ...more
Christina
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book came to my rescue right when I needed it. At a time when my worldview was necessarily changing (due to my father's passing), this book eased that transition. It is beautifully written and confronts tragedy in a straightforward, and yet hopeful, way. I think it would have changed my life even if I'd read it at a different time.
Liana
May 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
By far THE BEST book I've read all year. Perhaps one of the best and most beautifully written books in recent literary memory. Please read this book if you appreciate history, art, and love.
Renee
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Margaret
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating novel grabs the reader early on and does not let go. It begins when Ben, one of the Ziskind twins, is visiting a Chagall show at a museum. Alone in the gallery as the museum prepares to close, he yanks a copy of Chagall’s “Study for ‘Over Vitebsk’” off the wall and walks unseen out of the museum with it. So begins a complicated story of the Ziskind family, back and forward in time, a story which tangentially includes the historical figures of Marc Chagall and the Yiddish writer ...more
emily
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this a lot. I love folktales of all sorts, and I was really excited about the blend of Yiddish folktales I was expecting to see here.

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

I think that,
...more
T.N Kaz
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up on a whim at a Salvation Army. Like most books I pick up there, I was half expecting a pedantic plot line and shallow characters, with just enough entertainment thrown in to keep me engaged. Hell, was I wrong. Ms. Horn's writing is some of the best I've ever encountered with contemporary writers. This is a deep, deep multilayered story, with each compartmentalized narrative fragments, working like shapes of a modernist painting, that come together to make a unified whole.

T
...more
Paloma Meir
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it first came out in 2006. All I remember of it was that I loved it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, exactly how unhelpful was this review?

Tali
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Loved it! A classic Tali read: multigenerational, Jewish, bits of magical realism. The way Yiddish folklore was weaved in was so great
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Out of This World

In the Yiddish folk tales that are woven through this magnificent book, the World to Come is a heaven occupied both by those that have passed on and those that have yet to be born. So Dara Horn writes about families and generations: elders who have passed on (or in some cases been eliminated), adults facing tragedy, finding new love, or conceiving new life, and children trying to figure out what it all means. One folk tale tells of a town where nobody ever dies, because nobody h
...more
Marsha
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book several hours ago thinking about it ever since. Magical realism with Jewish-Russian themes. The color and light of a Chagall painting told in chapter, verse and fable. The horror and memory of countless acts of violence spanning from the destruction of the first temple and the diaspera of millenea. The savagry of the 20th century masked in political "isms", leading to the terror of today. This book is about all these things and much much more.

The stories and the characters w
...more
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Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

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“I believe that when people die, they go to the same place as all the people who haven’t yet been born. That’s why it’s called the world to come, because that’s where they make the new souls for the future. And the reward when good people die” – her mother paused, swallowed, paused again – “the reward when good people die is that they get to help make the people in their families who haven’t been born yet. They pick out what kinds of traits they want the new people to have – they give them all the raw material of their souls, like their talents and their brains and their potential. Of course it’s up to the new ones, once they’re born, what they’ll use and what they won’t, but that’s what everyone who dies is doing, I think. They get to decide what kind of people the new ones might be able to become.” 28 likes
“Children are often envied for their supposed imaginations, but the truth is that adults imagine things far more than children do. Most adults wander the world deliberately blind, living only inside their heads, in their fantasies, in their memories and worries, oblivious to the present, only aware of the past or future.” 27 likes
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