Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

This (very illuminated) book confused the shit out of me… 😐

I found it in a second-hand store and bought it knowing, that it was on my to-read list, without remembering from where and why it got there. It was a coincidence, that the story takes place in Ukraine. So, unwillingly, a book published 20 years ago, was a reminder of keeping up with the news and not letting terrible things just float to the background.

With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man – also named Jonathan Safran Foer – sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

One of the main characters is from Odessa and describes it incredibly beautifully. This made me again think of the fact that I had plane tickets to Odesa in 2020, but the pandemic cancelled my plans and now the war … But I know that the brave people of Ukraine will keep fighting and I will soon be able to visit this beautiful place! 🇺🇦

But back to the book … and my confusion.

▫️ First I was confused by the weird English in the first chapter.
▫️ Then I was confused by the change in style and theme in the second chapter.
▫️ At one point I started to figure things out by the third chapter.
▫️ Then I was confused again about what genre I am actually reading.

After I gave up on understanding, I had a pretty nice journey. The book is incredibly beautifully written. It’s been a long time since I underlined so many passages. But it is hard to describe it. I’d say it has a nice amount of magical realism, a lot of wonder and beauty….

Some of my favourite passages and quotes in Everything is Illuminated:

And then, confusion at the end again. Because I don’t quite know what I think of it. I mean I liked it, I think. Or maybe …

No, I did. Yes, let’s say yes, I did like it. I actually did 😆

Read more on Goodreads and shop Jonathan Safran Foer on B&C.