The Ministry of Special Cases: Summary and book reviews of The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander, plus links to an excerpt from The Ministry of Special Cases and a biography of Nathan Englander.
The Ministry of Special Cases A Novel
by Nathan Englander
Hardcover: Apr 2007,
Paperback: Apr 2008,
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.
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).
Time Out New York -Kate Lowenstein
Englander’s novel has hints of magical realism (we find the characters in a variety of absurd situations, such as their willing receipt of unnecessary nose jobs from a broke surgeon who owes Kaddish money), but most of the story is so convincingly told that it’s hard to imagine that Englander hasn’t weathered political persecution himself. Despite its grim plot, the book is a pleasure to read. 4 out of 6.
Esquire - Tyler Cabot
All the while, Englander's prose moves along with a tempered ferocity -- simple yet deceptively incisive.
Signature review. Englander writes with increasing power and authority in the second half of his book; he probes deeper and deeper, looking at what absence means, reading the shadow letters on history's curtain.
Booklist - Brad Hooper
Starred Review. The bulk of this overwhelming novel, then, is Pozman's and his wife's attempt to locate their missing son. Four p' s best describe this work: poignant, powerful, political, and yet personal.
Englander's story collection promised a brilliant future, and that promise is here fulfilled beyond all expectations.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Julie Zelman Get it for your book club! Like his earlier short story collection, this will draw you deep inside a world that is both new and familiar. I have recommended this book to many people, and each came away saying "Wow". It reminds me of "Life of Pi", not in its themes or... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kim 2007 Favorite Book for a reason! The Ministry of Special Cases, by Nathan Englander, tells the story of a Jewish family caught up in the political corruption and upheaval of mid-70's Argentina. As one of BookBrowse's Best Books of 2007, it has all the things you'd expect from... Read More
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
By the early 1980s the junta
faced mounting opposition, an
economic crisis, and allegations
of corruption. Seeking to allay
criticism it launched a campaign
to regain the group of islands
close to its...
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