Nathan Englander

DiscussionsJewish Fiction

Rejoignez LibraryThing pour poster.

Nathan Englander

Ce sujet est actuellement indiqué comme "en sommeil"—le dernier message date de plus de 90 jours. Vous pouvez le réveiller en postant une réponse.

Mar 7, 2008, 9:33pm

I have now completed reading Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases. I found it to be quite enjoyable touched with both humor and sadness. It is very much a Jewish tale about a failed marriage, its partners unable to overcome their disparate upbringings nor survive the terror of the dissappearances that befell many jewish families living during the Argentine junta of the 1970's.

THe husband, Kaddish, is "un hijo de puta" shunned by the more respectable jews of Buenos Aires who hire him to deface the gravestones of their scorned ancestors ( apparently during the 1920's there was a thriving jewish trade in prostitution and crime in Buenos Aires). The wife, Lillian, comes from a more respectable jewish family who begged her not to marry Kaddish but his dreams of success and glory won her over;only to result in dissappointment and bitterness when their smart and lovely 19 yr old son is abducted by the dark forces of the junta. They fall into a Kafkaesque spiral, a maze and labyrinth of officials who stonewall their attempts to find their son Pato.

This is Englander's second book. His first a short story collection, For The Relief of Unbearable Urges, which was also a treasure of quirky tales all with jewish orthodox wigmaker, a failed poet caught up in a Stalinesque purge and a gentile who decides to find himself in the jewish religion.

Englander is a special talent. What do others think?

Modifié : Mar 7, 2008, 9:56pm

I absolutely loved this book. I listened to it on audio during my travels to and from work. At first, I had no idea where this story was headed and laughed out loud at some of the absurd situations in which the couple found themselves. In the middle of the story, I began to see that this was not such an amusing tale at all as I suddenly realized how the story was going to end.

I was amazed at Englander's writing. It seemed that there was not one word out of place. I'd love to get hold of his book of short stories and give those a try. He is quite a talent. I sure do agree.

When I lived in Israel during the 1970's, I made friends with quite a few young people from South America. I remember how liberal and anti-government they were. I have always felt quite close especially to the Argentinians I met there. It was for that reason that I picked up this novel in the first place. I was always aware of the "disappeared" in South America but never thought about to where they disappeared. I also knew that Jews were targets of the South American governments but never truly knew the extent of the situation. Although The Ministry of Special Cases was only a novel, I feel it had essential truths to share. It did lead me to Wikipedia to supplement the story I was reading with some facts about the time and place of the story's setting.

Modifié : Mar 8, 2008, 12:31pm

I actually spend time in Buenos Aires and was pleased to find an active, vibrant and welcoming Jewish Community. There are over 200,000 Jews in the city and the Argentines were quite liberal in their immigration policies; in fact the city is very much a European culture with Italians, Spaniards, Brits, Germans and Jews all evident. I have also run into several Israelis, most of whom, are travelling following their time in the Armed Forces. There is also a frequent Lubavitcher presence.

Other interesting Argentine Jewish writers are Alberto Gerchunoff (who was an influence on Borges), Ricardo Feierstein, and Edgardo Cozarinsky. There is also a wonderful anthology entitled The Silver Candelabra.

Back to Englander I am pleased you , too, thought the book was fantastic. I hope we are spreading the word.

Modifié : Mar 8, 2008, 12:01pm

Back to Englander I am pleased you , too, thought the book was fantastic. I hope we are spreading the word.

Unfortunately I never got to visit South America at all in my former traveling days although I have family from Santiago Chile (Jewish) and currently have one cousin who lives with his wife and triplet children in Sao Paolo, Brazil. When I was in Mexico (I stayed in Hotel Polanco - don't know why that name still stands out) many years ago, I thought it was a riot to be among the Jewish population there. It seemed as it were Potomac, Maryland, transplanted to another place on earth except for the fact that the population spoke Spanish and not English. Of course, the contrast between the life style of these Jews and the poverty of the Mexican peasants is another story...

I *am* trying to spread the word! I posted my review of this book here on LT and on Amazon as soon as I finished reading it.

I'm going to put the list of writers you recommended on my wishlist right now! Thank you so much.

Mar 8, 2008, 2:20pm

I'm not familiar with Englander, although his books look great. Thanks for the tip. The only thing I can add about the Argentinian Jewish community, in terms of the arts, is to recommend a terrific contemporary composer, Osavaldo Golijov, whose work ranges from klezmer to an unbelievable Mass that includes elements of Ladino, tango, jazz, classical and Afro-Cuban rhythms. More info here:

I got to interview him once by phone for an article I was writing for a Jewish newspaper in New Jersey. He was very friendly and interesting to talk to, especially impressive since I was some unknown writer doing a piece for a tiny periodical he'd never heard of.

Modifié : Mar 11, 2008, 6:45pm

Rocket-There is a very active Jazz scene in Buenos Aires and some accomplished Jewish palyers although their names escape me now. I live in Jersy now and receive the jewish weekly from UJA.

Chu- funny you should mention Polanco- a few years ago we were in Mexico City and stopped at a synagogue in Polanco- it was elegant and the rabbi was Argentine. A great latin jewish resource is the writer Ilan Stavans- a mexican jew- who heads up a Jewish Latin American Studies Program at Amhearst College- he has his own website.

Even though I am an Ashkenazi I have developed a very strong interest in the Jewish experience in latin America.

Modifié : Mar 11, 2008, 8:08pm

Oooh! Thanks. Looks very interesting. I don't have time to read the links just now, but will get back to them. I have them bookmarked.

It was living in Israel that got me interested both in Sephardic Jews as well as Ashkenazic Jews from South America.

Mar 11, 2008, 8:05pm

Ce message a été supprimé par son auteur(e).

Mar 11, 2008, 8:05pm

Ce message a été supprimé par son auteur(e).

Juil 2, 2008, 12:35pm

I also loved the novel by Nathan Englander. I have seldom read a book which so perfectly combined the absurd and the sad. And, like somebody else mentioned, in which not word seems out of place.