A favorite author of mine is Jonathan Safran Foer, due to his ability to portray something so specific, and not at all generalised, with an endless sea of details and quirks, but simultaneously deliver the most relatable and deep cutting of emotions. His writing is hugely personal, to the point that it feels impossible to define the group of people he intends to target his work to if not only himself. The characters in his stories are real people, living real lives, and having real experiences, that are messy and complicated and sometimes not understandable. His expressions of creativity is not for everyone, but the inner works and stories of his words capture the most human experiences of our time and do so with such intense, alternative means.
His debut novel Everything is Illuminated was released in 2002 and was immediately hugely discussed in the roam of literature, establishing Safran Foer as a cultural centrepiece of alternate authorship. The book is a culmination of his personal style of writing, being two parallel stories of different aspects of Jewish history and heritage; telling stories of personal discoverings and complex emotions and relationships. The scheme of this continued in his next coming novel Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close (2005), which portray a post-nine eleven tale of a child learning to live without his father as a result of the events simultaneously dealing with his extreme mannerism and social behaviours. Safran Foer constantly speaks volume in matters of identity, family, relationships, and grief, but does so in stories and artwork that is completely his own. In his latest novel Here I Am (2016) he succeeds to depict the fall of a relationship and the depiction of the chemistry between the married couple that fades away with small actions is some of the most uncomfortably real illustrations of a dysfunctional relationship, leaving me feeling sick while reading. Actually sick.
“You’re not making sense”
“I’m making perfect sense. I would have respected you so much more if you’d fucked her. It would have proven something to me that I have found harder and harder to believe”
“That you’re a human being”
“You don’t believe I’m human?”
“I don’t believe you’re there at all”
Safran Foer is probably most known for his non-fiction book that is Eating Animals (2009), a modern classic in the genre of literature about the meat industry and vegetarianism and/or veganism. It’s a recollection of his personal journey with the matter, discovering and uncovering different aspects of the phenomenon through notes from actually breaking in to meat factories, a peek into his family’s historical relationship with food, and his relationship with parenthood. The scheme of Safran Foer’s writing is equally present in his non-fictive work, as Eating Animals delivers the same amount of personal but oddly generalised view of the matter. His personal stories intertwine with the massive framework of research, completed with illustrations by Tom Manning to visuals certain fact, which creates a much more nuanced perspective in the discussion of eating animals. His work combines the factual, objective with the personal, subjective to fully understand the different aspects of eating and not eating meat, and how to comprehend the alternative. The book also discusses other matters of animal welfare, like raising questions of hierarchy amongst animals in relationship with humans (why most people never could consider eating dogs, but chooses to eat other animals without hesitation). The discussion is intricate and delicate really understanding the personal aspect of meat consumption, but never shying away from the issues with it. The book also cultivated in the production of a documentary with the same title discussing the same matter, Eating Animals (2018), co-narrated by Safran Foer and actor Natalie Portman, a well known animal activist and vegan, the latter due to the book of Safran Foer.
Safran Foer is one of my favorite authors since his work offers an alternative outlook upon literature, an aspect crucial to his novels that is rare amongst writers, the relatability of the unique. The stories and characters don’t always resonate with me and my personal experiences, but the emotions created within the pages of his books are as real as the emotions of my close friends and family, or even myself. The emotional impact he has the reader is remarkable in its depth and lasting effect. The crippling sensation of reading Eating Animals for the time in 2015 remains with me to this day, and staring into the cover of Here I Am brings me nausea of remembering the heartbreak of reading it. A heartbreak I never wish undone.