Foer, Jonathan Safran: *1977

Everything Is Illuminated, 2002 - Information about the Book

  • Author I did not intend to write EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. I intended to chronicle, in strictly non-fictional terms, a trip that I made to the Ukraine as a twenty-year-old. Armed with a photograph of the woman who I was told had saved my grandfather from the Nazis, I embarked on a journey to Trachimbrod, the shtetl of my family's origin. The comedy of errors lasted five days. I found nothing but nothing, and in that nothing - a landscape of completely realized absence - nothing was to be found. Because I didn't tell my grandmother about the trip - she would never have let me go - I didn't know what question to ask, or whom to ask, or the necessary names of people, places and things. . I returned to Prague, where I had planned to explain what had happened.
    But what had happened? It took me a week to finish the first sentence. In the remaining month, I wrote 280 pages. What made beginning so difficult, and the remainder so seemingly automatic was imagination - the initial problem, and ultimate liberation, of imagining. My mind wanted to wander, to invent, to use what I had seen as a canvas, rather than the paints. But, I wondered, is the Holocaust exactly that which cannot be imagined? What are one's responsibilities to "the truth" of an event, and what is "the truth"? Can historical accuracy be replaced with imaginative accuracy? Objectivity with the mind's eye? EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED is my best answer, for now. It proposed the possibility of a responsible duality, of "did and didn't" of things being one way and also the opposite way. Rather than aligning itself with either "how things were" or "how things could have been," the novel measures the difference between the two, and by so doing, attempts to reflect a kind of truth about the way we live.
    Any amateur physicist knows that there is unaccounted-for weight in the universe, that the harmony of the planets and stars is dependent upon masses that we cannot, and will not ever, see. As a writer, I want to explore the dark matter of emotion, which is no less real or surreal than the dark matter of space. EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED is one kind of scale.