“All is for Sasha and Iggy, Jonathan. Do you understand? I would give everything for them to live without violence. Peace. That is all I would ever want for them. Not money and not even love. It is still possible.”
Jonathan Safran Foer‘s first novel, “Everything Is Illuminated“, tells the story of a young American writer named Jonathan who goes to Ukraine to look for the origins of his family. When all he has is a photograph of the woman he thinks saved his grandfather from the nazis, he drives all around the country to find her and her village. Together with his translator, Alex, and his grantfather he tries to unravel the mystery that revolves around this woman.
The book can ben divided into three parts. The first is the one where Alex tells about the search. He describes the journey in the best English he is able to do, but being Ukrainian it isn’t easy for him. At first this broken English might be annoying, but later on in the book it definetly adds something to the story. It creates not just hillarious, but also extremely moving situations. In the second part Foer describes the tale of a little village called Trachimbrod. In the book this is the novel the American writer is making. He finds a way of creating an almost magical atmosphere around this little town and, at the same time, he teaches us all something about the history of the former Soviet Union. The third and last part consists of letters Alex writes to Jonathan. In these letters he gives his opinion on the novel and he says what he would like to see differently.
“I have given abnormally many thoughts to altering residences to America when I am more aged. They have many superior schools for accounting, I know.”
Even though the three different storylines in one novel could be quite confusing from time to time, I was completely captured by this book. The enchanting style of writing makes you want to read page after page, chapter after chapter. Looking at the cover which says: “Winner of Guardian first book award 2002” I thought I probably was not the only one who feels this way. And I am not. When it came out it got all the credit it, according to me, deserves.
“‘Everything Is Illuminated’ is endearing, accomplished — and (to quote Alex one last time) definitely premium.”
Lately the book has been criticized for not being veracious. Apparently the way Foer described the Holocaust in Trachimbrod did not resemble the way it happened in real life, but does this make the book less good? I don’t think so. For me this book was perfect. Not only did it make me laugh out loud half of the time, I was also very affected by the story. It made me think about love and what I would and wouldn’t do for the people I care about the most. I think Jonathan Safran Foer is, despite his young age and lack of experience, an absolutely amazing writer. Not just this book, but also his second novel, “Extremely Loud an Incredibly Close“, left a very deep impression on me.
“Say it again.
I won’t leave you alone.
Say it again.
I won’t leave you alone.
Leave you alone.”
I think this book is the perfect example of what a good novel is supposed to be like. It made me laugh, it made me cry and most of all, it made me think. Maybe not everything is based on reality, but I really don’t care. For me it was everything I expected and more.