Excerpt of Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
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An Overture to the Commencement of a Very Rigid Journey
My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me
Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal
name. Mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me!, because I am always
spleening her. If you want to know why I am always spleening her, it
is because I am always elsewhere with friends, and disseminating so
much currency, and performing so many things that can spleen a
mother. Father used to dub me Shapka, for the fur hat I would don
even in the summer month. He ceased dubbing me that because I ordered
him to cease dubbing me that. It sounded boyish to me, and I have
always thought of myself as very potent and generative. I have many
many girls, believe me, and they all have a different name for me.
One dubs me Baby, not because I am a baby, but because she attends to
me. Another dubs me All Night. Do you want to know why? I have a girl
who dubs me Currency, because I disseminate so much currency around
her. She licks my chops for it. I have a miniature brother who dubs
me Alli. I do not dig this name very much, but I dig him very much,
so OK, I permit him to dub me Alli. As for his name, it is Little
Igor, but Father dubs him Clumsy One, because he is always
promenading into things. It was only four days previous that he made
his eye blue from a mismanagement with a brick wall. If you're
wondering what my bitch's name is, it is Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior.
She has this name because Sammy Davis, Junior was Grandfather's
beloved singer, and the bitch is his, not mine, because I am not the
one who thinks he is blind.
As for me, I was sired in 1977, the same year as the hero of
this story. In truth, my life has been very ordinary. As I mentioned
before, I do many good things with myself and others, but they are
ordinary things. I dig American movies. I dig Negroes, particularly
Michael Jackson. I dig to disseminate very much currency at famous
nightclubs in Odessa. Lamborghini Countaches are excellent, and so
are cappuccinos. Many girls want to be carnal with me in many good
arrangements, notwithstanding the Inebriated Kangaroo, the Gorky
Tickle, and the Unyielding Zookeeper. If you want to know why so many
girls want to be with me, it is because I am a very premium person to
be with. I am homely, and also severely funny, and these are winning
things. But nonetheless, I know many people who dig rapid cars and
famous discotheques. There are so many who perform the Sputnik Bosom
Dalliancewhich is always terminated with a slimy underfacethat I
cannot tally them on all of my hands. There are even many people
named Alex. (Three in my house alone!) That is why I was so
effervescent to go to Lutsk and translate for Jonathan Safran Foer.
It would be unordinary.
I had performed recklessly well in my second year of English
at university. This was a very majestic thing I did because my
instructor was having shit between his brains. Mother was so proud of
me, she said, "Alexi-stop-spleening-me! You have made me so proud of
you." I inquired her to purchase me leather pants, but she said
no. "Shorts?" "No." Father was also so proud. He said, "Shapka," and
I said, "Do not dub me that," and he said, "Alex, you have made Mother so
Mother is a humble woman. Very, very humble. She toils at a
small café one hour distance from our home. She presents food and
drink to customers there, and says to me, "I mount the autobus for an
hour to work all day doing things I hate. You want to know why? It is
for you, Alexi-stop-spleening-me! One day you will do things for me
that you hate. That is what it means to be a family." What she does
not clutch is that I already do things for her that I hate. I listen
to her when she talks to me. I resist complaining about my pygmy
allowance. And did I mention that I do not spleen her nearly so much
as I desire to? But I do not do these things because we are a family.
I do them because they are common decencies. That is an idiom that
the hero taught me. I do them because I am not a big fucking asshole.
That is another idiom that the hero taught me.
Copyright © 2002 by Jonathan Safran Foer. Reprinted by permission of
Houghton Mifflin Company.