Thursday, August 18, 2005

everything is illuminated (jonathon safran foer)

Not only was she the smartest citizen in Trachimbrod, she was also the most lonely and sad. She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum…
Are you sad, Yankel? She asked one morning over breakfast.
Of course, he said, feeding melon slices into her mouth with a shaking spoon.
Because you were eating then, instead of talking, and I become sad when I don’t hear your voice.
When you watch people dance, does that make you sad?
Of course.
It also makes me sad. Why do you think it does that?
He kissed her on the forehead, put his hand under her chin. You really must eat, he said, it’s getting late.
Is God sad?
He would have to exist to be sad, wouldn’t he?
I know,
she said, giving his shoulder a little slap. That’s why I was asking, so I might finally know if you believed!
Well, let me leave it at this: if God does exist, He would have a great deal to be sad about. And if He doesn’t exist, then that too would make Him quite sad, I imagine. So to answer your question, God must be sad.
Brod discovered 613 sadnesses, each perfectly unique, each a singular emotion, no more similar to any other sadness than to anger, ecstasy, guilt, or frustration. Mirror Sadness. Sadness of Domesticated Birds. Sadness of Being Sad in front of One’s Parent. Humor Sadness. Sadness of Love Without Release.
She was like a drowning person, flailing, reaching for anything that might save her. Her life was an urgent, desperate struggle to justify her life.

Brod’s life was a slow realization that the world was not for her, and that for whatever reason, she would never be happy and honest at the same time. She felt as if she were brimming, always producing and hoarding more love inside her. But there was no release. .. She addressed her world honestly, searching for something deserving of the volumes of love she knew she had within her, but to each she would have to say, I don’t love you…. Nothing felt like anything more than it actually was. Everything was just a thing, mired completely in its thingness.
If we were to open a random page in her journal we would find some rendering of the following sentiment: I am not in love.


The following encyclopaedia of sadness was found on the body of Brod D. The original 613 sadnesses, written in her diary, corresponded to the 613 commandments of our (not their) Torah. Shown below is what was salvageable after Brod was recovered. (Her diary’s wet pages printed the sadnesses onto her body. Only a small fraction [55] were legible. The other 558 sadness are lost forever, and it is hoped that, without knowing what they are, no one will have to experience them.) The diary from which they came was never found.

SADNESSES OF THE BODY: Mirror sadness; Sadness of [looking] like or unlike one’s parents; Sadness of not knowing if your body is normal; Sadness of knowing your [body is] not normal; Sadness of knowing your body is normal; Beauty sadness; Sadness of m[ake]up; Sadness of physical pain; Pins-and-[needles sadness]; Sadness of clothes [sic]; Sadness of the quavering eyelid; Sadness of a missing rib; Noticeable sad[ness]; Sadness of going unnoticed; The sadness of having genitals that are not like those of your lover; The sadness of having genitals that are like those of your lover; Sadness of hands…..
SADNESSES OF THE COVENANT: Sadness of God’s love; Sadness of God’s back [sic]; Favourite-child sadness; Sadness of b[ein]g sad in front of one’s God; Sadness of the opposite of belief [sic]; Sadness of God alone in heaven; Sadness of a God who would need people to pray to him….
SADNESSES OF THE INTELLECT: Sadness of being misunderstood [sic]; Humor sadness; Sadness of love wit[hou]t release; Sadne [ss of be] ing smart; Sadness of not knowing enough words to [express what you mean]; Sadness of having options; Sadness of wanting sadness; Sadness of confusion; Sadness of domes[ti]cated birds; Sadness of fini[shi]ng a book; Sadness of remembering; Sadness of forgetting; Anxiety Sadness…
INTERPERSONAL SADNESSES: Sadness of being sad in front of one’s parent; Sa[dn]ness of false love; Sadness of love [sic]; Friendship sadness; Sadness of a bad convers[at]ion; Sadness of the could-have-been; Secret sadness….
SADNESSES OF SEX AND ART: Sadness of arousal being an unordinary physical state; Sadness of feeling the need to create beautiful things;…Kissing Sadness; Sadness of moving too quickly; Sadness of not mo[vi]ng; Nude model sadness; Sadness of portraiture…..



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this.

4:16 am, December 26, 2005  
Blogger zoe said...

it's gorgeous, isn't it? it makes my heart ache.

i think i might post something from his second book, 'extremely loud and incredibly close'. it's equally wonderful, and made me cry both times i read it, which illuminated didn't.

there's lots of parallels between the two books, and a few identical threads keep coming up, which i really like.

i'm hoping to find somewhere showing the film of everything is illuminated - i will feed back on it :)

4:28 pm, December 26, 2005  
Blogger allison said...

why is it so beautiful? i feel all of the sadnesses in my chest and it hurts and it makes me love the book even more.

5:44 am, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Rachel said...

so i just found your blog and it made my entire day. this is my favorite book, i read it over and over and over and over again. the fact that you've named your blog from it makes me incredibly happy! thank you.

5:55 am, April 04, 2010  
Blogger doreese said...

I just started this book, and last nite this was the last chapter I read before falling asleep and I couldn't believe how amazing that chapter was. I never knew what I felt could be put into words by someone else... it's such a powerful chapter... it like..tears my heart.

8:31 am, April 24, 2010  

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