Everything Is Illuminated

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This article is about the book. For the film, see Everything Is Illuminated (film). For the Dexter episode, see List of Dexter episodes#Season 5 (2010).
Everything Is Illuminated
Front cover of hardcover edition.
Author Jonathan Safran Foer
Cover artist Jon Gray (aka gray318)
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
April 16, 2002
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-618-17387-0 (hardcover)
ISBN 0-06-052970-9 (paperback)
OCLC 48144414
813/.6 21
LC Class PS3606.O38 E84 2002

Everything Is Illuminated is the first novel by the American writer Jonathan Safran Foer, published in 2002. It was adapted into a film by the same name starring Elijah Wood and Eugene Hütz in 2005.

The book's writing and structure received critical acclaim for the manner in which it switches between two stories, both of which are autobiographical. One of them is the fictionalized history of the eradicated town of Trochenbrod (Trachimbrod), a real exclusively Jewish shtetl in Poland before the Holocaust where the author's mother was born; while the second narrative encompasses Foer's trip to Ukraine in search for the remnants and memories of Trachimbrod as well as the author's writing-in-progress.

Plot summary[edit]

Jonathan Safran Foer (the author), a young American Jew, journeys to Ukraine in search of Augustine, the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Nazi liquidation of Trachimbrod, his family shtetl (a small town) in occupied eastern Poland. Armed with maps, cigarettes and many copies of an old photograph of Augustine and his grandfather, Jonathan begins his search with the help from Ukrainian native and soon-to-be good friend, Alexander "Alex" Perchov, who is Foer's age and very fond of American pop culture, albeit culture that is already out of date in the United States. Alexander studied English at his university, and even though his knowledge of the language is not "first-rate", he becomes the Foer's translator. Alex's "blind" grandfather and his "deranged seeing-eye bitch," Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr., accompany them on their journey.

Names of cities are given in their Russian version (e.g., Lvov), although the Polish or Ukrainian naming would have been correct for the scenes in Trachimbrod and Ukraine.

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

Upon its initial release the book received enthusiastic reviews particularly in The Times stating that Foer had "staked his claim for literary greatness."[1] Nevertheless, in a Huffington Post article titled "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers," Anis Shivani criticized the work as "harmless multiculturalism for the perennially bored" and claimed that "a more pretentious 'magical realist' novel was never written."[2] The Ukrainian reviewer Ivan Katchanovski lamented in his article from The Prague Post that the book misrepresents the history of Jews in Ukraine and that the factual history of the massacre at Trachimbrod "...stands in a sharp contrast to claims made in the book."[3] The 1942 massacre nevertheless, is a known historical fact.[4][5]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Luminous talent in the spotlight". London: The Times. July 7, 2002. Retrieved July 12, 2007.  (access blocked with demand for personal info)
  2. ^ Shivani, Anis. (August 7, 2010) "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers." The Huffington Post. Accessed November 20, 2010.
  3. ^ Katchanovski, Ivan. (October 7, 2004) "Not Everything Is Illuminated". The Prague Post. Accessed November 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Beit Tal (2010). "Zofiówka". POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Beit Tal (2014). "Truchenbrod – Lozisht". The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Pajiba presents The Generation’s Best Books as defined by our readers. June 20, 2007, Internet Archive.

External links[edit]