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These eight new stories from the celebrated novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander display a gifted young author grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and the imagination that place Englander at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction.
The title story, inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, is a provocative portrait of two marriages in which the Holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game. In the outlandishly dark “Camp Sundown” vigilante justice is undertaken by a group of geriatric campers in a bucolic summer enclave. “Free Fruit for Young Widows” is a small, sharp study in evil, lovingly told by a father to a son. “Sister Hills” chronicles the history of Israel’s settlements from the eve of the Yom Kippur War through the present, a political fable constructed around the tale of two mothers who strike a terrible bargain to save a child. Marking a return to two of Englander’s classic themes, “Peep Show” and “How We Avenged the Blums” wrestle with sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity and peril. And “Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side” is suffused with an intimacy and tenderness that break new ground for a writer who seems constantly to be expanding the parameters of what he can achieve in the short form.
Beautiful and courageous, funny and achingly sad, Englander’s work is a revelation.
Praise for Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
“Englander’s new collection of stories tells the tangled truth of life in prose that, as ever, surprises the reader with its gnarled beauty . . . Certifiable masterpieces of contemporary short-story art.”
“A resounding testament to the power of the short story from a master of the form. Englander’s latest hooks you with the same irresistible intimacy, immediacy and deliciousness of stumbling in on a heated altercation that is absolutely none of your business; it’s what great fiction is all about.”
“It takes an exceptional combination of moral humility and moral assurance to integrate fine-grained comedy and large-scale tragedy as daringly as Nathan Englander does.”
“Courageous and provocative. Edgy and timeless. In Englander’s hands, storytelling is a transformative act. Put him alongside Singer, Carver, and Munro. Englander is, quite simply, one of the very best we have.”
“Nathan Englander writes the stories I am always hoping for, searching for. These are stories that transport you into other lives, other dreams. This is deft, engrossing, deeply satisfying work. Englander is, to me, the modern master of the form. And this collection is the very best of the best.”
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank vividly displays the humor, complexity, and edge that we've come to expect from Nathan Englander's fiction--always animated by a deep, vibrant core of historical resonance."
“Englander’s wisest, funniest, bravest, and most beautiful book. It overflows with revelations and gems.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer
“Nathan Englander’s elegant, inquisitive, and hilarious fictions are a working definition of what the modern short story can do.”
“The depth of Englander’s feeling is the thing that separates him from just about everyone. You can hear his heart thumping feverishly on every page.”
“Nathan Englander is one of those rare writers who, like Faulkner, manages to make his seemingly obsessive, insular concerns all the more universal for their specificity. It’s this neat trick, I think, that makes the stories in his new collection so utterly haunting.”
The Ministry of Special Cases
“The fate of Argentina’s Jews during the 1976-83 “Dirty War” is depicted with blistering emotional intensity in this start first novel. . . . A political novel anchored, unforgettably, in the realm of the personal. Englander’s story collection promised a brilliant future, and that promise is here fulfilled beyond all expectations.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This is a staggeringly mature work, gracefully and knowledgeably set in a milieu far from the author’s native New York. . . . Four p’s best describe this work: poignant, powerful, political, and yet personal.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] harrowing and brilliant first novel . . . Englander’s great gifts are an absurdist sense of humor and a brisk, almost breezy narrative voice. He handles his unbearable subjects with the comic panache of a vaudeville artists, before delivering the final, devastating blow.”
“Resonates of Singer, yes, but also of Bernard Malamud and Lewis Carroll, plus the Kafka who wrote The Trial . . . You will wonder how a novel about parents looking for and failing to find their lost son, about a machinery of state determined to abolish not only the future but also the past, can be horrifying and funny at the same time. Somehow . . . this one is.”
“A mesmerizing rumination on loss and memory. . . . It's a family drama layered with agonized and often comical filial connections that are stretched to the snapping point by terrible circumstance . . . builds with breathtaking, perfectly wrought pacing and calm, terrifying logic.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Englander writes with increasing power and authority . . . Gogol, I. B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander’s book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration.”
“This chilling book of intrigue examines the slow obliteration of culture and families perpetuated by forces seeking absolute political power. Highly recommended.”
“Englander secures his status as a powerful storyteller with this book about the disappearance of the son of a down-and-out Jewish hustler during Argentina’s Dirty War in the seventies.”
“Englander’s prose moves along with a tempered ferocity—simple yet deceptively incisive. . . . Englander’s book isn’t so much about the search for a lost boy. It’s about fathers and sons and mothers and faith and community and war and hope and shame. Yes, that’s a lot to pack into 339 pages. But not when a book reads at times with the urgency of a thriller.”
“Wonderful . . . Since much of the book’s power comes from its relentlessly unfolding plot, it’s not fair even to tell who disappears, let alone whether that person reappears. . . . Englander maintains an undertone of quirky comedy almost to the end of his story.”
“[Englander’s] journey into the black hole of paradox would have done Kafka or Orwell proud.”
“Brace yourself for heartbreak . . . most of the story is so convincingly told that it’s hard to imagine that Englander hasn’t weathered political persecution himself.”
—Time Out New York
“A vibrant, exquisite, quirky and devastating historical novel—and a gift to readers. . . . This is a story propelled by secrets, and part of Englander's achievement is how well he builds nerve-wrecking tension. . . . Written in crisp, unsentimental prose, The Ministry of Special Cases is as heartbreaking a novel as Sophie's Choice.”
—The Hartford Courant
“[S]pare, pitch-perfect passages . . . Through deft, understated prose, Englander evokes the incremental way in which fear grips a community, citizens accustom themselves to ignoring those small outrages and how those outrages gradually but inexorably give way to larger atrocities, tolerated by an ever more complicit populace.”
“The combination of a gift for narrative, a proclivity for pathos, and a lode of arcane knowledge is put to great use in Nathan Englander’s first novel.”
—The Boston Phoenix
“Nathan Englander bravely wrangles the themes of political liberty and personal loss with the swift style and knowing humor of folklore. In the spirit of the simple ambiguity of its title, The Ministry of Special Cases is carefully contradictory, wise and off-kilter, funny and sad.”
—New York Observer
“Engrossing . . . Englander perfectly captures the language of disorientation, the tautologies through which the country's oppressors support their own positions and thwart pleading citizens at every turn.”
—Rocky Mountain News
“As remarkable as Englander’s evocation of a country at war with itself is, his greatest achievement might be the way he manages to do it with a lightness of touch and even a few delicately comic insertions. The heaviness of the subject doesn’t result in correspondingly weighty prose; rather, a risky but flawlessly executed contrast is carried out. And there’s a sting in the tail. How exactly do you come up with an ending for a story about disappearance? . . . Englander finds the answers, and provides a suitably stunning finale to one of the most powerful novels in years.”
“This is a rollercoaster of a novel, and while most of the dips are downward, there are memorable moments of hilarity, hope and humanity. Imagine a screwball comedy about one of recent history's darkest and most overlooked periods. . . . The Ministry of Special Cases is a remarkable work of imagination and empathy—a modern-day book of mourning.”
—The Gazette (Canada)
For the Relief of Unbearable Urges
“Englander’s voice is distinctly his own--daring, funny and exuberant.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Taut, edgy, sharply observed . . . A volume of polished gems.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Often hallucinatory, epigrammatic eloquence that is, as advertised, reminiscent of the fiction of Isaac Singer, Saul Bellow, and especially Bernard Malamud. . . . An exemplary fusion of what T.S. Eliot called ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent,’ and a truly remarkable debut.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Remarkable art. . . . The author fills each of these pieces with vivid life, with characters that jump off the page.”
Nathan Englander’s short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and numerous anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Englander is the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, which earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Causing mass hysteria as listeners of its 1938 radio broadcast believed a Martian invasion of Earth really was taking place, H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds is perhaps the most famous novel of its genre. This 1898 story has spawned films, radio and television series and comic-book adaptions, and its popularity endures today.
Captain Woodrow Call, August McCrae's old partner, is now a bounty hunter hired to track down a brutal young Mexican bandit. Riding with Call are an Eastern city slicker, a witless deputy, and one of the last members of the Hat Creek outfit, Pea Eye Parker, now married to Lorena -- once Gus McCrae's sweetheart. This long chase leads them across the last wild streches of the West into a hellhole known as Crow Town and, finally, into the vast, relentless plains of the Texas frontier.
“An extraordinary tale powerfully told, *The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world. It’s a tremendously moving work that deserves to be read and remembered.”
—The Globe and Mail*
“The Street Sweeper is an impressive literary achievement, complex in its organization, meticulous in its plotting and deeply satisfying in its emotional payoffs.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Humane, compelling and convincing . . . artfully structured and well written.”
—The Sunday Times
“Street Sweeper . . . demonstrates how history and fiction can converge to tell stories that cry out to be remembered.”
—The Telegraph (UK)
“Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“An extraordinary tale powerfully told, The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world. It’s a tremendously moving work that deserves to be read and remembered.”
—The Globe and Mail
“An expertly told novel of life in immigrant America—and of the terrible events left behind in the old country.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Brilliantly makes personal both the Holocaust and the civil rights movement.... A moving and literate page-turner.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Perlman’s compulsively readable wrestle-with-evil saga is intimate and monumental, wrenching and cathartic.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“In the best kind of books, there is always that moment when the words on the page swallow the world outside — subway stations fly by, errands go un-run, rational bedtimes are abandoned — and the only goal is to gobble up the next paragraph, and the next, and the next…. [The Street Sweeper is] a towering achievement: a strikingly modern literary novel that brings the ugliest moments of 20th-century history to life, and finds real beauty there.”
“A sprawling work, generous in its spirit and in breadth of imagination, unabashed in its liberal humanism.”
“A rich, engaging story of New York. [Perlman is] an author of rare erudition and compassion. The Street Sweeper is his boldest work yet and, quite probably, the one that will win him a greater following.”
—The Washington Post
“[An] ambitious yet thoughtful novel.”
—The Independent (UK)
From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau, there are momentous stories everywhere. But only some survive to become history.
Lamont Williams is a black man from the Bronx trying to return to a normal life after serving a six-year prison term for a crime for which he was wrongly convicted. Historian Adam Zignelik is an untenured Columbia professor whose career and long-term relationship are falling apart. When Lamont Williams strikes up an unlikely friendship with a patient at the hospital where he works as a janitor, he learns about the Sonderkommando--prisoners forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi extermination camps. Meanwhile, Adam pursues a promising research topic suggested by a World War II veteran, a topic that might just save him professionally and even personally. When the lives of these two men intersect, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen.
The Street Sweeper is an astonishing feat of storytelling that addresses the personal and the political as it sweeps across the globe, through the seminal events of the twentieth century to the present. Honest, hypnotic and redemptive, this is a novel that explores the responsibility of the historian, the weight of history on all of us, and the crucial role that bearing witness plays in breaking the cycle of human cataclysm.
From the Hardcover edition.