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Nathan Englander Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Ministry of Special Cases (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Dinner at the Center of the Earth (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (1999) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Suddenly, a Knock at the Door (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Plays

The Twenty-Seventh Man (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: A Short Story (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Gilgul of Park Avenue (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Peep Show (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Nathan Englander is one of the United States best-known contemporary fiction writers who has made a name for himself writing about Orthodox Jewish themes. His work has appeared in some of the most venerated publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and several anthologies such as The Best American Short Stories, and The Pushcart Prize. “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges”, which was his debut collection of short stories, was a winner of the Sue Kauffman Prize for First Fiction and the Faulkner/PEN Malamud Award by the American Award of Arts and Letters. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” that came out in 2012 made the shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. What makes Englander’s works so unique is that most of it is drawn from his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Since he first started publishing his novels, he has been named one of the top twenty writers of the century by The New Yorker, won a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Bard Fiction Prize. He was also a fellow at the New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Apart from his short stories, he has also written novels such as “The Ministry of Special Cases” and “Dinner at the Center of the Earth” focused on the Orthodox Jewish experience of the Holocaust and the modern Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Nathan Englander is a fifth generation American with Jewish heritage who has lived his whole life under Jewish Orthodoxy. Born in West Hempstead, New York, he lived in an Orthodox Jewish community and would spend up to twelve hours every day with rabbis. For his high school studies, he went to the Hebrew Academy of Nassau for his high school studies, before he attended State University of New York. His only training in the arts was when he attended the University of Iowa “Iowa Writers’ Workshop”. He would immigrate to Israel for further collegiate studies in the mid-nineties, where he lived for half a decade. He first got interested in documenting Jewish history when he first heard of the 1952 purge of Jewish writers by Stalin. Determined to capture their story, he would write his first title “The Twenty Seventh Man” that would be one of the anchor stories of his collection of short stories “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges’. He would soon follow that with the Pulitzer winning collection “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” that came out in 2013. After several tweaks and editing, he collaborated with Nora Ephron to produce The Twenty Seventh Man into a play at the “Old Globe Theater” in San Diego. Englander has taught the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at CUNY Hunter College and New York University’s MFA program. He currently lives in either of his two homes in Madison, Wisconsin or in Brooklyn, New York.

Nathan Englander first came into prominence with the publication of “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” in 1999. The collection of short stories are little a guilty and furtive, a little bit dirty, and surprisingly relatable account of the inner lives of Orthodox Jews. Englander Chronicles his characters including a woman who is looking to murder her husband that would not grant her a divorce, and a husband that is seeking rabbinical permission to quench his desires with a prostitute. Englander writes with an eye attuned to the bizarreness of situations that is at the same time sympathetically amused but with a light touch. What makes the narratives so relatable is that his characters have simple human responses to their predicaments even when they are closely connected with their deep orthodox perspectives. The narratives are a convincing combination of realism and parable, yet Englander does his best not to make his characters ridiculous. Englander’s second collection “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” is a more intelligent collection with influence from the likes of Raymond Carver. Nonetheless, the author goes beyond Carver economy and casts a soft yet tight net around the troubles of Orthodox Jews. Similar to his previous titles he talks of the dawning realizations of orthodox Jews that they might not be as righteous as they believe they are. The series of narratives flirt with the elegant and mordant, and a little bit of the misplaced whimsical to make for highly entertaining stories.

“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” is Nathan Englander’s first collection of novels through which he made his name as one of the foremost contemporary historical authors. The narratives are haunting and powerfully inventive narratives steeped in Orthodox life and custom and Jewish history. However, the narratives find their best expression in the openness of spirit. It is the openness of spirit, which Nathan uses to portray the concept that through doubt one can find a way to faith. In despair, the narratives see a chance for increasing wisdom and a chance at deepening understanding. Nathan Englander paints a picture of a group of Polish Jews heading for a concentration camp in Auschwitz and in a deft pull has them turn into acrobats sidestepping the caprices of the Nazi regime. He transforms his characters into beautiful souls and time and again makes them attain what would at first seem impossible. The overriding message is that there is always hope as just beyond the horizon there is a province where death cannot reach.

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” is a moving collection of short stories that makes for some of the best contemporary historical narratives you could ever read. The collection includes an erotic romp that suddenly becomes bizarre, an autobiography that turns into a postmodern writing experiment, a gripping historical saga, and Kafkaesque parable. Some of Raymond Carver’s classic themes inspire the titular narrative, even as it is an analysis of Jewish identity, trust, and love in Orthodox Jewry. Most of the stories answer critical questions on the role of religion in a Jews life, the meaning of Jewishness, and how to place trust in others and oneself, while facing up to atavistic fears and temptations in a modern world. The narratives are highly entertaining and informative, having the craftsmanship and cleverness we have come to expect from the master of contemporary historical fiction. However, it is important to note that Englander writes of the human condition even if most of his characters are Orthodox Jews.

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