‘ My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name.’
This first sentence might throw you off, as it did with me, but if you do continue reading you’ll find that this broken English is what makes the novel such an amazing one.
Everything is Illuminated is the first novel written by Foer and also his first novel Iread. It certainly won’t be the last. Everything is Illuminated was published in 2002. On it’s first release it got great reviews. After the – on the novel based- movie and Foer’s second novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the reviews were less praising. Most reviewers love the broken English, fittingly described as if he is
‘using a thesaurus to enrich his vocabulary, sees no distinction between common, demotic and poetic words.’
The novel is build up by three storylines. There’s the main character Alex, a young ambitious Ukrainian man who lives with his younger brother, his parents and his grandfather. There is the ‘hero’ Jonathan Safrar Foer, a man of the same age as Alex who is trying to find out more about his family history. Throughout the book you read parts of the novel he is writing about an old town called Trachimbrod, a town Jonathan is trying to find with Alex as his guide. He writes this book inspired by the journey through Ukraine. The third storyline is the letters Alex sends to Jonathan, after the trip, about his everyday life and the wellbeing of his family. In these letters he also criticizes the parts of Jonathan’s book that Jonathan appears to be sending to Alex.
One of the main subject of the book is the second world war. Alex’s grandfather, the self-diagnosed blind driver who takes Jonathan and Alex in his stinking wrecked car looking for Trachimbrod, endured the war and now refuses to talk about it. You can tell that he isn’t proud of certain things he did or things that occurred, but you only find out what happened in the last few pages. Jonathan (as the writer of the novel) all of a sudden changes his writing style, to a perfect fit for what he is writing. I had to gasp for my breath while reading. Of course I’m not telling you what I read. You’ll have to read it yourself.
My favorite part of the book is where the character Jonathan, Alex, grandfather and his ‘ Seeing eye bitch’ are dining at a very local restaurant, and Jonathan tries to explain why he’s a vegetarian. He gets absolutely no sympathy or any kind of understanding and ends up with a single potato on his plate.
Jonathan Safran Foer (the writer) is also a vegetarian and wrote about it in his latest novel, appositely called Eating Animals.
I absolutely loved the book and would recommend it to anyone who is ready to read some great English literature and feel like your life has changed a bit when you finally put the book down.