What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
An Indigo Book Review
Last month, the National Post’s Mark Medley described the blurbs on the back of Nathan Englander’s latest book of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, as the “greatest collection ever.” He’s not exaggerating. Everyone from Dave Eggers to Jonathan Safran Foer has chimed in. Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) called the stories, “Certifiable masterpieces of contemporary short-story art.” Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel) referred to Englander as “a master of the short story.” And Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) praised the author’s ability, “to integrate fine-grained comedy and large-scale tragedy as daringly as Nathan Englander does.”Englander wasn’t yet 30 when he published his highly acclaimed first collection of short stories, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. It earned him the 2000 Pen/Faulkner/Malamud Award as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize. The New York Times review of the novel, his next book set in 1976 Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases, claimed you would read “in awe of Englander’s talent.”
Raised an Orthodox Jew, all but one of Englander’s eight stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank focus, like his first collection, on Jewish characters, yet the stories retain a universal appeal as much for their moral complexity as the tragicomic manner in which Englander can engage the most harrowing of subjects. Again and again the Brooklyn-based author raises probing questions about the Holocaust, about anti-Semitism, about justice and revenge. Naturally, for a writer of this calibre, the answers are never easy and are, in fact, often surprising (if there are answers at all).
For the rest of this review, click What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank