Friday, November 23, 2007

Finding Trochenbrod

I found Trochenbrod through film.

Trochenbrod was a Jewish shtetl (village) in western Ukraine. When the Nazis occupied Ukraine in World War II, they made Trochenbrod a ghetto and brought in Jews from surrounding towns and villages. The genocide happened in August and September of 1942.

For the fictional Trachimbrod, we fast forward to 2002. Jonathan Safran Foer launches his debut novel, “Everything Is Illuminated.” The blurb from Harper Collins reads, “With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man -- also named Jonathan Safran Foer -- sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.”

The novel was acclaimed by most critics and became a bestseller. I have yet to read the book but I have seen the 2005 film rendition. The story, as told in the film, is beautiful. It is unassuming, sublime, brilliant. If it is any indication of what the text is, then I would most likely agree with the critical literary lot.

I consider artistic works as gems when I am stirred to feel anything or even everything in the gamut of feelings, whether it be empathy with the author or with the characters in joy, sadness, anger and/ or any other emotion. In following the cinematic plot, I felt a lightness of being which is like the headiness you feel when in love or in orgasm or even in something as base as a nicotine fix. I laughed, I smiled, I was excited both in wonder and in fear, and I cried in searching for Trachimbrod.

The film had me vicariously reliving the stories of and with the characters. I believe these stories are parallel to lives in the shtetl of the real Trochenbrod. It is through this that everything is illuminated to me. As what Milan Kundera wrote and from where Foer, as I understand, took his novel’s title, “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine."

1 comment:

Hannah said...


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