The long-awaited novel from Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Englanders wondrous and much-heralded collection of stories won the 2000 Pen/Malamud Award and was translated into more than a dozen languages.
From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentinas Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who wont accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence--and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, the refuge of last resort.
Nathan Englanders first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, the nature of truth itself, all take shape according to a corrupt governments whims, one man--one spectacularly hopeless man--fights to overcome his history and his name, and, if for only once in his life, to put things right. Here again are all the marvelous qualities for which Englanders first book was immediately beloved: his exuberant wit and invention, his cosmic sense of the absurd, his genius for balancing joyfulness and despair. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander captures, indelibly, the grief of a nation. The Ministry of Special Cases, like Englanders stories before it, is a celebration of our humanity, in all its weakness, and--despite that--hope.
Jews bury themselves the way they live, crowded together, encroaching on one another's space. The headstones were packed tight, the bodies underneath elbow to elbow and head to toe. Kaddish led Pato through uneven rows over uneven ground on the Benevolent Self side. He cupped his hand over the eye of the flashlight to smother the light. His fingers glowed orange, red in between, as he ran his fist along the face of a stone.
They were searching for Hezzi Two-Blades' grave, and finding it didn't take long. His plot rose up sharply. His marker tipped back. It looked to Kaddish as if the old man had tried to claw his way free. It also looked like Two-Blades' daughter had only to wait another winter and she wouldn't have needed to hire Kaddish Poznan at all.
Marble, Kaddish had discovered, is chiseled into not for its strength but for its softness. As with the rest of the marble in the graveyard of the Society of the Benevolent Self, Hezzi's marker was pocked and ...
A powerful and poignant novel that probes the depths of identity and loss, and how societies and individuals contribute to their own undoing. To tell you any more would be to tell you too much. Be cautious reading other reviews of The Ministry of Special Cases because many give away too much of the plot; and, however tempting it might be, don't skip ahead to see the outcome. Instead, step into the unknown alongside the comically-tragic Kaddish and his wife as they helplessly attempt to navigate the terrifying Kafkaesque world of 1970s Buenos Aires, in which their son has been "disappeared", his very existence, past or present, denied by the military regime.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1006 words).
The Argentine "Dirty War"
Estimates of the number of people who were "disappeared" during the Argentine "Dirty War" range from 9,000 to 30,000, of which about 1,000 were Jews. After the death of controversial President Juan Peron in 1974, his third wife, Isabel, assumed power (Peron's second wife was Eva, made famous by the musical Evita). Isabel was politically weak and was soon removed from power by a military junta who then set about arresting anybody they believed challenged their authority...
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