Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Ministry of Special Cases

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Ministry of Special Cases

A Novel

by Nathan Englander

The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander X
The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

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.

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 southern tip which the Argentines call the Malvinas, and the British, having occupied them since 1833, refer to as the Falklands.

The junta believed they would be able to reclaim the islands easily, and initially they did; but they didn't count on the recently elected British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, sending a substantial chunk of the British military 8,000 miles around the world to defend the rights of the 3,000 residents (not to mention the island's strategic importance close to the Antarctic and South America). Seventy-two days later the British retook the islands having captured 9,800 Argentine POWs. This humiliating loss was the final blow for the military regime who, in 1982, restored basic civil liberties and retracted its ban on political parties. In December 1983 a civilian government was elected.


Jews in Argentina

After being expelled from Spain in 1492, a number of Jews settled in Argentina where they assimilated into the general population, so by the mid 1800s there were few overt Jews in Argentina. When Argentina gained its independence from Spain in 1810, the first president officially abolished the Inquisition and encouraged freedom of immigration and respect for human rights. Over the following decades Jewish immigrants began to arrive from Europe, especially France. In the late 19th century, a third wave of Jewish immigrants arrived, primarily fleeing poverty and pogroms in Russian and Eastern Europe. By 1920 there were about 150,000 Jews in Argentina.

Anti-Semitism in Argentina had been infrequent until World War I, but increased during the 1920s and '30s. Juan Peron, a Nazi sympathizer with fascist leanings came to power in 1946. He halted Jewish immigration and allowed Argentina to become a haven for fleeing Nazis; but he also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949 (since then about 45,000 Argentine Jews have emigrated to Israel). A law against racism and anti-Semitism passed in the Argentine parliament in 1988. Argentina's Jewish community currently numbers about a quarter million, mostly in Buenos Aires.

This article was originally published in May 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya

    A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.