Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander (2011)

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander (1970, USA) is the lead story of a collection of the same name which won the 2012 International Frank O'Connor Prize for best collection of short stories and which was nominated for the Pulitizer Prize.  That makes it must reading for anyone interested in the state of the contemporary short story.  I was happy to see it included in a collection of short stories I have, Best American Short Stories, 2012. 

The story, set in Miami, centers on two couples.  The wives were friends in college twenty or so years ago and have now reconnected through social media.  One woman and her husband now live in Isreal and have converted to Orthodox.    One of the women's father was a Holocaust survivor.  The women begin to reminisce about their colleges days.   A central focus of the increasingly whiskey fueled conversation, one of the men affirms whiskey is Kosher, is on who is really "Jewish".  They begin to play a game in which they consider which of their non-Jewish acquaintances would hide them from Nazi authorities like the Dutch family that hid Anne Frank. (The story title echoes a famous short story collection of Raymond Carver's).

This is a very interesting story with lots of thematic mine shafts one could explore.  

I hope to read the full collection one day.

Please share your experience with Englander with us.


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I thought this was a strong story collection, particularly the titular story that you're reviewing here. I hadn't read the Raymond Carver story from which it takes its title, but I've never been a big Carver fan anyway. I think Englander's first collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges is also excellent.

Mel u said...

As the Crowe Flies and Reads- I am also not big carver fan either, though have read only five or so stories.