Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel Hardcover – Jan 12 2012
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"A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.” – New York Times Book Review
“A caustic comic tour de force.” – NPR
“Poisonously funny…. Like an unintentional bark of laughter at a funeral.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Staggeringly nervy… Other fiction writers have gotten this fresh with Anne Frank. But they don’t get much funnier… [Auslander] is an absurdist with a deep sense of gravitas… It’s a tall order for Mr. Auslander to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation. Yet Hope: A Tragedy succeeds shockingly well.” – New York Times
“Shalom Auslander writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn’t joking.” — Howard Jacobson, author of The Finkler Question and winner of the Man Booker Prize
“A wonderful, twisted, transgressive, heartbreaking, true, and hugely funny book. It will make very many people very angry. It will also make very many people very happy.” — A. L. Kennedy, author of Day
“Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won’t regret it.” — John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
About the Author
Shalom Auslander was raised in Monsey, New York. Nominated for the Koret Award for writers under thirty-five, he has published articles in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Tablet, The New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR's This American Life. Auslander is the author of the short story collection Beware of God and the memoir Foreskin's Lament. He lives in New York City. To learn more about Shalom Auslander, please visit www.shalomauslander.com.
Top Customer Reviews
protagonist who finds Anne Frank hiding in his attic & against all odds attempts to keep her alive until she is able to complete her book!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I should hasten to add that I'm a huge fan of irreverence and not at all opposed to dark humor, which this book has in spades. It's just that Hope: A Tragedy is so over the top that it eventually lost me. Auslander keeps playing the same bits over and over again, and while they may have been amusing the first or second time, by the fourth or fifth, all I could do was roll my eyes.(I'm thinking specifically of his hero, Solomon's, habit of putting store-bought vegetables in his demented mother's garden patch each morning to fool her into thinking she'd grown them, as well as the incessant references to the smell accompanying the unwanted house guest camped out in the attic, and his mother's endless faux references to being a Holocaust survivor.) Although I kept reading, the book started wearing on me to the point where I just wanted to finish it and move on.
I know from Foreskin's Lament what an extraordinarily gifted writer Auslander is, and I'll look forward to his future efforts, but this one didn't work for me.
Unfortunately, Mr. Auslander's comic skills are not enough to save Hope: A Tragedy. There are numerous problems here but the biggest is that there is not a single really likeable character in the book. Anne Frank is a foul-mouthed terror, Kugel's mother labors under the fantasy of being a Holocaust survivor, the townspeople around Kugel are all liars, cheats, and/or arsonists. His wife is understandable, at least, but hard to sympathize with since Kugel is the center of the novel.
As for Kugel himself, the reader cannot sympathize with him either. Auslander seems to want to make him sympathetic but his decision-making process is so ridiculous that he is unbelievable. Kugel wants to have hope for the future, for his family, which is admirable. His shrink, Jove (what's in a name?), constantly advises him to forget hope, forget happiness, and just get on with life. But why are having hope and getting on with life mutually exclusive? A few simple decisions--put his mother in a home, go to work on a regular basis, throw Anne out of the attic--and his problems would be under control. But he can't seem to do any of this for reasons that don't seem realistic. Auslander mines some good tragedio-comedy with Kugel putting food in his mother's garden and buying supplies for Anne, but it's not enough. If the comic effect or the ending (which is horrible) were worth the effort, it would be possible to suspend disbelief, but in a novel that has you pulling for Kugel, he ends up being a horrible disappointment.
When it comes right down to it this novel is not a disaster but it, like so many others, is a chance wasted. It feels like too many attempts to force humor by pushing characters to extremes, rather than letting humor and true tragedy arise from strong, believable characters. Mr. Auslander is a writer of obvious talents, but they don't seem to be on best display here.
One of the other reviewers compared this to a cross of Kafka and Woody Allen. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. This "novel" reads more like an extended fable to me.
Disclaimer: I was tempted to give this only four stars for not being funny to me, but, I think it's only fair to judge a book by what it is, rather than what I want it to be (and apparently some other people find it funny). Just don't think that this is at all like Beware of God or to a lesser extent Foreskin's Lament though there is some thematic overlap.