Hope: A Tragedy

Shalom Auslander

Hope: A Tragedy

Solomon Kugel wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere, to be in a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any import has ever happened there, which is exactly why Kugel decided to move his family there. To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one he bought, and he fears his is next. And when, one night, Kugel discovers history – a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history – hiding in his attic, bad very quickly becomes worse. 3.7 out of 5 based on 13 reviews
Hope: A Tragedy

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 304
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication February 2012
ISBN 978-1447207658
Publisher Picador
 

Solomon Kugel wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere, to be in a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any import has ever happened there, which is exactly why Kugel decided to move his family there. To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one he bought, and he fears his is next. And when, one night, Kugel discovers history – a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history – hiding in his attic, bad very quickly becomes worse.

Reviews

The Sunday Times

Andrew Holgate

This debut is one of the best and most bracing novels I have read in a very long time. Ferociously intelligent, full of savage irony, it feels like a throwback to the finest days of iconoclastic Jewish-American fiction — a book that could happily sit alongside Portnoy’s Complaint, say, or Catch-22. What it shares with those books is its desire to shock, unsettle and tilt at cultural norms; not the least of its attractions is that it is blisteringly funny as it does so.

12/02/2012

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The Literary Review

Jonathan Barnes

… outrageous, irreverent, very funny and on the knife-edge of good taste …

01/02/2012

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The Guardian

Naomi Alderman

If the novel has a failing, it's that it's not much interested in plot. Kugel finds Anne Frank in his attic, his life spirals apart as you might expect. There's some business with a local arsonist, but no big surprises. It's usually a criticism to say that a novel feels like an expanded short story, but in this case the thematic and character exploration are easily big enough to hold up the whole book. And what are you going to do with the plot of a novel about the Holocaust anyway? Like those Holocaust films, we all know there's only one ending.

29/02/2012

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The Observer

Elizabeth Day

Much of this runs the risk of being tasteless but Auslander is adept at treading the line between humour and offensiveness. The target of his satire is not the Holocaust itself but the mawkish self-absorption of those who use it for their own ends, who relish the hierarchy of victimhood rather than cherishing the triumph of survival.

04/03/2012

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The New Statesman

Olivia Laing

Just as Foreskin's Lament wasn't an atheist's outcry but that of an infuriated believer, so this is not an advocation of denial. Instead, it's an assault on any attempt to make the Holocaust something that can be contained in a scrapbook or a museum. In Auslander's hands, history is animate and terrifying: a dangerous, stinking squatter in the present. It's certainly not palatable and nor should it be. This is a funny book but, by God, it sticks in the throat.

12/03/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Doug Johnstone

Auslander previously wrote a fantastic story collection, Beware of God, and a jaw-dropping memoir entitled Foreskin's Lament, but the form of the novel seems to have focused his anger and humour into truly fearsome weapons.

26/02/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Gerald Jacobs

Many will find the theme too serious – and the attic-dweller too revered a person – for humour. But the disarming enormity of the laughter that Auslander creates compels attention to the shocking enormity of his subject matter. Humour can be a serious business. Thank God.

20/02/2012

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The Times

Melissa Katsoulis

Auslander’s stridently anti-literary style (“The sun was in the sky like a something. The breeze blew like a whatever”) is designed to show just how radical all this is. Not a novel to relish, then, but you’ll be picking bits of its strange meat out of your teeth for a long time to come.

25/02/2012

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The Financial Times

Henry Hitchings

At the outset this is dazzling. Yet the novel seems a succession of smart sketches rather than a sustained, authentic narrative. Anne and Solomon aside, the characters are wispily drawn. While the jokes are often inspired, the splenetic acts of transgression become repetitive.

24/02/2012

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Times Literary Supplement

Jerome Boyd Maunsell

To have crafted a novel of ideas and laughter out of atrocity and slaughter is no mean feat; this subject could only have been treated in this way at this distance in time (an exact distance wryly physicalized by Anne Frank in the attic). Auslander is wary of using narrative coercion to arouse empathy; yet there remains an uneasy sleight of hand and twodimensionality about the novel’s dark hilarity. It is finally Auslander’s own performance, not his subject, that draws the gaze.

27/04/2012

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The Daily Mail

Amber Pearson

Auslander’s writing, with its welter of quick-fire exchanges and pithy one-liners, has a rhythm and mordant humour which, at its best, recalls the work of Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut. This is a comedy with something to offend everyone, but Auslander’s intentions are nothing if not serious.

16/02/2012

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The Daily Express

Matt Thorne

Though it will offend some, much of this novel is very funny. Unfortunately, just past the midway point, Auslander runs out of steam, repeating lines over and over … Auslander cannot hide the fact that he is a natural comedian and, while his prose and plotting do not quite convince, his gags are first rate.

12/02/2012

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The Independent

Clive Sinclair

In Auslander's first book, Beware of God, God is a serial killer; in his second, Foreskin's Lament, it's God's representatives on earth - the orthodox Jews – who do His dirty work for Him. And now – in his third book (and first novel), it's the history God has imposed upon His Chosen People that does the damage. Being familiar with all three, I feel that a pattern has emerged - nay, a pathology - which I'll call Auslander's Complaint. Think of it as like Portnoy's Complaint, but with lashings of extra guilt, and nil sexual gratification.

17/02/2012

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