Sample text for Everything is illuminated : a novel / Jonathan Safran Foer.
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An Overture to the Commencement of a Very Rigid Journey
My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me
Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal
name. 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, and performing so many things that can spleen a
mother. Father used to dub me Shapka, for the fur hat I would don
even in the summer month. He ceased dubbing me that because I ordered
him to cease dubbing me that. It sounded boyish to me, and I have
always thought of myself as very potent and generative. I have many
many girls, believe me, and they all have a different name for me.
One dubs me Baby, not because I am a baby, but because she attends to
me. Another dubs me All Night. Do you want to know why? I have a girl
who dubs me Currency, because I disseminate so much currency around
her. She licks my chops for it. I have a miniature brother who dubs
me Alli. I do not dig this name very much, but I dig him very much,
so OK, I permit him to dub me Alli. As for his name, it is Little
Igor, but Father dubs him Clumsy One, because he is always
promenading into things. It was only four days previous that he made
his eye blue from a mismanagement with a brick wall. If you"re
wondering what my bitch"s name is, it is Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior.
She has this name because Sammy Davis, Junior was Grandfather"s
beloved singer, and the bitch is his, not mine, because I am not the
one who thinks he is blind.
As for me, I was sired in 1977, the same year as the hero of
this story. In truth, my life has been very ordinary. As I mentioned
before, I do many good things with myself and others, but they are
ordinary things. I dig American movies. I dig Negroes, particularly
Michael Jackson. I dig to disseminate very much currency at famous
nightclubs in Odessa. Lamborghini Countaches are excellent, and so
are cappuccinos. Many girls want to be carnal with me in many good
arrangements, notwithstanding the Inebriated Kangaroo, the Gorky
Tickle, and the Unyielding Zookeeper. If you want to know why so many
girls want to be with me, it is because I am a very premium person to
be with. I am homely, and also severely funny, and these are winning
things. But nonetheless, I know many people who dig rapid cars and
famous discotheques. There are so many who perform the Sputnik Bosom
Dalliance—which is always terminated with a slimy underface—that I
cannot tally them on all of my hands. There are even many people
named Alex. (Three in my house alone!) That is why I was so
effervescent to go to Lutsk and translate for Jonathan Safran Foer.
It would be unordinary.
I had performed recklessly well in my second year of English
at university. This was a very majestic thing I did because my
instructor was having shit between his brains. Mother was so proud of
me, she said, "Alexi-stop-spleening-me! You have made me so proud of
you." I inquired her to purchase me leather pants, but she said
no. "Shorts?" "No." Father was also so proud. He said, "Shapka," and
I said, "Do not dub me that," and he said, "Alex, you have made
Mother so proud."
Mother is a humble woman. Very, very humble. She toils at a
small café one hour distance from our home. She presents food and
drink to customers there, and says to me, "I mount the autobus for an
hour to work all day doing things I hate. You want to know why? It is
for you, Alexi-stop-spleening-me! One day you will do things for me
that you hate. That is what it means to be a family." What she does
not clutch is that I already do things for her that I hate. I listen
to her when she talks to me. I resist complaining about my pygmy
allowance. And did I mention that I do not spleen her nearly so much
as I desire to? But I do not do these things because we are a family.
I do them because they are common decencies. That is an idiom that
the hero taught me. I do them because I am not a big fucking asshole.
That is another idiom that the hero taught me.
Father toils for a travel agency, denominated Heritage
Touring. It is for Jewish people, like the hero, who have cravings to
leave that ennobled country America and visit humble towns in Poland
and Ukraine. Father"s agency scores a translator, guide, and driver
for the Jews, who try to unearth places where their families once
existed. OK, I had never met a Jewish person until the voyage. But
this was their fault, not mine, as I had always been willing, and one
might even write lukewarm, to meet one. I will be truthful again and
mention that before the voyage I had the opinion that Jewish people
were having shit between their brains. This is because all I knew of
Jewish people was that they paid Father very much currency in order
to make vacations from America to Ukraine. But then I met Jonathan
Safran Foer, and I will tell you, he is not having shit between his
brains. He is an ingenious Jew.
So as for the Clumsy One, who I never ever dub the Clumsy One
but always Little Igor, he is a first-rate boy. It is now evident to
me that he will become a very potent and generative man, and that his
brain will have many muscles. We do not speak in volumes, because he
is such a silent person, but I am certain that we are friends, and I
do not think I would be lying if I wrote that we are paramount
friends. I have tutored Little Igor to be a man of this world. For an
example, I exhibited him a smutty magazine three days yore, so that
he should be appraised of the many positions in which I am
carnal. "This is the sixty-nine," I told him, presenting the magazine
in front of him. I put my fingers—two of them—on the action, so that
he would not overlook it. "Why is it dubbed sixty-nine?" he asked,
because he is a person hot on fire with curiosity. "It was invented
in 1969. My friend Gregory knows a friend of the nephew of the
inventor." "What did people do before 1969?" "Merely blowjobs and
masticating box, but never in chorus." He will be made a VIP if I
have a thing to do with it.
This is where the story begins.
But first I am burdened to recite my good appearance. I am
unequivocally tall. I do not know any women who are taller than me.
The women I know who are taller than me are lesbians, for whom 1969
was a very momentous year. I have handsome hairs, which are split in
the middle. This is because Mother used to split them on the side
when I was a boy, and to spleen her I split them in the
middle. "Alexi-stop-spleening-me!," she said, "you appear mentally
unbalanced with your hairs split like that." She did not intend it, I
know. Very often Mother utters things that I know she does not
intend. I have an aristocratic smile and like to punch people. My
stomach is very strong, although it presently lacks muscles. Father
is a fat man, and Mother is also. This does not disquiet me, because
my stomach is very strong, even if it appears very fat. I will
describe my eyes and then begin the story. My eyes are blue and
resplendent. Now I will begin the story.
Father obtained a telephone call from the American office of
Heritage Touring. They required a driver, guide, and translator for a
young man who would be in Lutsk at the dawn of the month of July.
This was a troublesome supplication, because at the dawn of July,
Ukraine was to celebrate the first birthday of its ultramodern
constitution, which makes us feel very nationalistic, and so many
people would be on vacation in foreign places. It was an impossible
situation, like the 1984 Olympics. But Father is an overawing man who
always obtains what he desires. "Shapka," he said on the phone to me,
who was at home enjoying the greatest of all documentary movies, The
Making of "Thriller," "what was the language you studied this year at
school?" "Do not dub me Shapka," I said. "Alex," he said, "what was
the language you studied this year at school?" "The language of
English," I told him. "Are you good and fine at it?" he asked me. "I
am fluid," I told him, hoping I might make him proud enough to buy me
the zebra-skin seat coverings of my dreams. "Excellent, Shapka," he
said. "Do not dub me that," I said. "Excellent, Alex. Excellent. You
must nullify any plans you possess for the first week of the month of
July." "I do not possess any plans," I said to him. "Yes you do," he
Now is a befitting time to mention Grandfather, who is also
fat, but yet more fat than my parents. OK, I will mention him. He has
gold teeth and cultivates ample hairs on his face to comb by the dusk
of every day. He toiled for fifty years at many employments,
primarily farming, and later machine manipulating. His final
employment was at Heritage Touring, where he commenced to toil in the
1950s and persevered until of late. But now he is retarded and lives
on our street. My grandmother died two years yore of a cancer in her
brain, and Grandfather became very melancholy, and also, he says,
blind. Father does not believe him, but purchased Sammy Davis,
Junior, Junior for him nonetheless, because a Seeing Eye bitch is not
only for blind people but for people who pine for the negative of
loneliness. (I should not have used "purchased," because in truth
Father did not purchase Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, but only
received her from the home for forgetful dogs. Because of this, she
is not a real Seeing Eye bitch, and is also mentally deranged.)
Grandfather disperses most of the day at our house, viewing
television. He yells at me often. "Sasha!" he yells. "Sasha, do not
be so lazy! Do not be so worthless! Do something! Do something
worthy!" I never rejoinder him, and never spleen him with intentions,
and never understand what worthy means. He did not have the
unappetizing habit of yelling at Little Igor and me before
Grandmother died. That is how we are certain that he does not intend
it, and that is why we can forgive him. I discovered him crying once,
in front of the television. (Jonathan, this part about Grandfather
must remain amid you and me, yes?) The weather report was exhibiting,
so I was certain that it was not something melancholy on the
television that made him cry. I never mentioned it, because it was a
common decency to not mention it.
Grandfather"s name is also Alexander. Supplementally is
Father"s. We are all the primogenitory children in our families,
which brings us tremendous honor, on the scale of the sport of
baseball, which was invented in Ukraine. I will dub my first child
Alexander. If you want to know what will occur if my first child is a
girl, I will tell you. He will not be a girl. Grandfather was sired
in Odessa in 1918. He has never departed Ukraine. The remotest he
ever traveled was Kiev, and that was for when my uncle wedded The
Cow. When I was a boy, Grandfather would tutor that Odessa is the
most beautiful city in the world, because the vodka is cheap, and so
are the women. He would manufacture funnies with Grandmother before
she died about how he was in love with other women who were not her.
She knew it was only funnies because she would laugh in
volumes. "Anna," he would say, "I am going to marry that one with the
pink hat." And she would say, "To whom are you going to marry her?"
And he would say, "To me." I would laugh very much in the back seat,
and she would say to him, "But you are no priest." And he would
say, "I am today." And she would say, "Today you believe in God?" And
he would say, "Today I believe in love." Father commanded me never to
mention Grandmother to Grandfather. "It will make him melancholy,
Shapka," Father said. "Do not dub me that," I said. "It will make him
melancholy, Alex, and it will make him think he is more blind. Let
him forget." So I never mention her, because unless I do not want to,
I do what Father tells me to do. Also, he is a first-rate puncher.
After telephoning me, Father telephoned Grandfather to inform
him that he would be the driver of our journey. If you want to know
who would be the guide, the answer is there would be no guide. Father
said that a guide was not an indispensable thing, because Grandfather
knew a beefy amount from all of his years at Heritage Touring. Father
dubbed him an expert. (At the time when he said this, it seemed like
a very reasonable thing to say. But how does this make you feel,
Jonathan, in the luminescence of everything that occurred?)
When the three of us, the three men named Alex, gathered in
Father"s house that night to converse the journey, Grandfather
said, "I do not want to do it. I am retarded, and I did not become a
retarded person in order to have to perform shit such as this. I am
done with it." "I do not care what you want," Father told him.
Grandfather punched the table with much violence and shouted, "Do not
forget who is who!" I thought that that would be the end of the
conversation. But Father said something queer. "Please." And then he
said something even queerer. He said, "Father." I must confess that
there is so much I do not understand. Grandfather returned to his
chair and said, "This is the final one. I will never do it again."
So we made schemes to procure the hero at the Lvov train
station on 2 July, at 1500 of the afternoon. Then we would be for two
days in the area of Lutsk. "Lutsk?" Grandfather said. "You did not
say it was Lutsk." "It is Lutsk," Father said. Grandfather became in
thought. "He is looking for the town his grandfather came from,"
Father said, "and someone, Augustine he calls her, who salvaged his
grandfather from the war. He desires to write a book about his
grandfather"s village." "Oh," I said, "so he is intelligent?" "No,"
Father corrected. "He has low-grade brains. The American office
informs me that he telephones them every day and manufactures
numerous half-witted queries about finding suitable food." "There
will certainly be sausage," I said. "Of course," Father said. "He is
only half-witted." Here I will repeat that the hero is a very
ingenious Jew. "Where is the town?" I asked. "The name of the town is
Trachimbrod." "Trachimbrod?" Grandfather asked. "It is near 50
kilometers from Lutsk," Father said. "He possesses a map and is
sanguine of the coordinates. It should be simple."
Grandfather and I viewed television for several hours after
Father reposed. We are both people who remain conscious very tardy.
(I was near-at-hand to writing that we both relish to remain
conscious tardy, but that is not faithful.) We viewed an American
television program that had the words in Russian at the bottom of the
screen. It was about a Chinaman who was resourceful with a bazooka.
We also viewed the weather report. The weatherman said that the
weather would be very abnormal the next day, but that the next day
after that would be normal. Amid Grandfather and I was a silence you
could cut with a scimitar. The only time that either of us spoke was
when he rotated to me during an advertisement for McDonald"s
McPorkburgers and said, "I do not want to drive ten hours to an ugly
city to attend to a very spoiled Jew."
Copyright © 2002 by Jonathan Safran Foer. Reprinted by permission of
Houghton Mifflin Company.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Americans Ukraine Fiction, World War, 1939-1945 Ukraine Fiction, Jewish families Fiction, Grandfathers Fiction, Novelists Fiction, Young men Fiction