Nathan Englander - Books - What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
It is told in large part as a story within a story: A Jerusalem vegetable merchant explains to his young son how his friend and fellow Holocaust survivor becomes a killer. This is not an eye-for-an-eye revenge fantasy, nor is it a study of evil, but a touching look into the life of a deeply damaged soul in the aftermath of the "unimaginable brutality of modern extermination.
Sister Hills is an epic political fable centred on two mothers who, "in the way of the old country," agree, in order to save a sick child from the Angel of Death, to a bargain that turns out to be as much a curse as a blessing. The tale, as much as anything, is a powerful parable about coveting what is not yours, a message that will resonate with those who disagree with Israel's settlement policy on the West Bank. The collection may sound heavy, freighted as it is with painful history, but many of Englander's stories are laugh-out-loud funny even as they are deadly serious. Peep Show features a successful young lawyer with a deracinated name who has turned his back on Judaism and married a blond Gentile woman who buys him a candle with a picture of Jesus on it for his father's yahrzeit.
On a whim, he attends a peep show on Manhattan's 42nd Street and is confronted by the rabbis of his youth, who demand to know "what makes a nice boy forget God? Camp Sundown is equal parts hilarious and horrifying, as senior-citizen Holocaust survivors at a summer camp for the aged believe they recognize a Nazi among them.
This is as much a story about the fragility of memory as about the eternal need for justice, and the senior vigilantes' foibles only underscores the irony in the phrase "Never forget. The funniest and saddest story is The Reader , about a once famous writer and his last reader, in a world our world in which bookstores are more often frequented for their coffee shops than their books. Nathan Englander continues to be a master of the short story.
I only hope that another 13 years do not pass before his next collection. He teaches fiction writing at Emerson College in Boston. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way.
Book review: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’ by Nathan Englander
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Special to The Globe and Mail. Published February 17, Updated May 11, However, Mark does not make things easy: the two men continue to argue now and again about aspects of Judaism especially.
The narrator, surprised by this secret, feels disoriented, but he and Deb soon reconcile. Despite the tension, Mark and Deb find common ground, and the four go outside to dance in the warm summer rain. The climax of the story occurs near the end, when they enter the pantry to find snacks. After playing it with a few of their neighbors and business associates, Deb plays it with the narrator, and claims that he would save her.
When Lauren and Mark play, however, it becomes clear after a prolonged silence that Lauren does not believe Mark, no longer Jewish in this hypothetical scenario, would risk his life for her and their children. The story ends with the narrator unsure of how to proceed and afraid to exit the room. Read more from the Study Guide.
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View the Study Pack. Plot Summary. Part 1.