Nathan Englander is the author of the internationally bestselling story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and the novel The Ministry of Special Cases.His short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and numerous anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Englanders story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Englander has been a fellow at the Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and at The American Academy of Berlin. He teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Hunter College, and in the summer, he teachers a course for NYUs Writers in Paris program. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
This biography was last updated on 07/11/2011.
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Nathan Englander discusses God, religion, Israel, and writing For The Relief of Unbearable Urges; and, in a separate interview following, he discusses his first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases (2007).
Tell us about your childhood,
your religious upbringing and how you came to reject it.
I grew up in an Orthodox home in New York, where I had a right-wing, xenophobic, anti-intellectual, fire-and-brimstone, free-thought free, shtetl-mentality, substandard education. And so I began to look elsewhere; I began to read literature. Simple as that.
Was your move to secular life an epiphany?
No, very far from it. I think I took the route Maimonides recommended. I was religious for many years after I started questioning my world. I stayed religious until the first week I set foot in Israel, when I was nineteen. That was the first time I ever got into a car on the Sabbath. I had started veering; I went to a secular college, though I stayed religious there.
Was that a major culture shock for you?
College was unbelievably eye-opening, coming from where I did, though all it really consisted of was meeting my neighbors from Long ...
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