Feature

Novel of the week: Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander

In Auslander’s “gloriously insensitive” and funny new novel, Anne Frank is alive and under pressure to write a follow-up to her teenage diary.

(Riverhead, $27)

In Shalom Auslander’s “gloriously insensitive” new novel, Anne Frank is not just alive today and living in upstate New York, said Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal. The famous Jewish memoirist turns out to be a cantankerous, unwanted guest dwelling in the attic of Solomon Kugel, a hard-luck New Yorker who bought the house in hopes that a move to the country would cure his sense of doom. When foul-mouthed Anne begins griping about the pressures of trying to write a follow-up to her teenage diary, Auslander emerges as a new Joseph Heller—a “prophet of pessimism” railing against history, the allures of victimhood, and especially hope. “Other fiction writers have gotten this fresh with Frank. But they don’t get much funnier,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Yet beneath its “deceptively flippant tone,” Hope: A Tragedy raises serious questions about the role of suffering in Jewish tradition. It’s a risk “to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation.” But Auslander’s gamble “succeeds shockingly well.”

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