Jonathan Safran Foer
and a photograph of the young woman who, he has been told, saved his grandfather from the Nazis.
While looking for the village, he realizes that he will probably have to create it, and the details of his heritage, from his own imagination. What he comes up with falls into some predictable patterns, part Chagall and part Fiddler on the Roof the only framework that an unprepared young American might be expected to possess.
The novel's second voice makes the novel, providing it with almost all its humor and originality. Alexander Perchov is the Ukrainian translator "Foer" hires to take him around the countryside in his quixotic search for the destroyed shtetl. At first Alex comes across as a playboy and wannabe American who has learned his English from popular culture and a bad thesaurus. The result is a hilarious send-up of what might be spoken by an officious foreign guide, although I suspect that no one in the world has ever spoken like this. Here is his opening:
My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my friends dub me Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name. My mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me! because I am always spleening her. If you want to know why I am always spleening her, it is because I am always elsewhere with friends, and disseminating so much currency. . . .