A wondrous thing occurred in 2002. It was the publication of a book written by Jonathan Safran Foer called, Everything is Illuminated
. This luminous thing dwelt on my bookshelf for many years until one of you mentioned it a few days ago, prompting me to pull it from my shelf and now, NOW a powerful example of how imagination is more important than knowledge
dwells within me. One Hundred Years of Solitude
has been bumped to number two on my all time favorite books list.
When it is not possible to know where we come from, or who our great-great-great-great-great grandmothers were, and when it is not possible to make sense of human suffering, we can create ineffable stories bordering on magical realism that are more true than the truth. From failure, wondrous things can bloom, from loss, love and beauty are born, from darkness, illumination occurs.
I hope that you are not too jaded, dear readers, to take this book to bed with you, because if you are an artist (and you are) and if you are a writer (and you are) then you need to know how the impossible is possible. You need this knowledge to dwell and swell within you.
Listen, this young American man went to Ukraine to find the woman who may (or may not) have helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis, and he failed. He was only 20, and ill prepared for this task. He had only a photograph, a first name, and the name of a small village that no longer exists. Because he failed to find anything, he made it all up. He took a few scraps of something real and invented a legendary great-great-great-great-great grandmother, he invented a village, he invented a history and he wove it all into true events in human history and told a story that is more efficacious than the truth.
This idea is not new. Tim O'Brien showed us this in The Things They Carried
, and others long before him have demonstrated this as well. But you have not seen it on the level that Foer has given. You have not seen anything so luminous. Take a pencil with you on this journey, because you will want to underline numerous passages, and you will want to document the strange dreams you will have after you have read these passages, you will want to nurse the spell it casts on you, you will want to lie underneath the stars and feel the aftershocks of this book contract through your being.