Jonathan Safran Foer was born in Washington, D.C. in 1977. He studied at Princeton University, where he was encouraged to write by Joyce Carol Oates. After finishing his degree in Philosophy he worked amongst other things as a receptionist, assistant in a mortuary, mathematics tutor, ghost writer, archivist and jewellery salesman. His publication debut came with the successful anthology »Convergence of Birds« (2001), which reunited poems and prose pieces inspired by the painter Joseph Cornell. His early short stories appeared in both »The Paris Review« and »Conjunctions«.
In 1999 Foer embarked on a trip to his grandparents’ place of origin, the Jewish village of Trachimbrod in the Ukraine, which was entirely destroyed after a massacre by German units during World War II. Even though his search for the whereabouts of the woman who back then had saved his grandfather’s life proved fruitless, his visit inspired Foer’s first novel. »Everything Is Illuminated« (2002) links in very special ways the story of this trip with an imaginary chronicle of the shtetl: the »realistic« and the »folkloric« parts are narrated in chronologically opposite order until they finally merge, whereby fiction and reality blend indistinguishably. The plot is developed through an innovative, confident flow of language, within a complex and exuberant mode of narration – »magical realism and Yiddish Baroque«, according to the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«. Foer’s entertaining yet likewise serious discussion of the Holocaust from the perspective of a third-generation Jewish survivor was enthusiastically received by critics. The book became an international bestseller. It was made into a movie, directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood, and has been translated into twenty-six languages.
In 2005 Foer’s second novel was published, this one focusing, with the writer’s characteristically daredevil energy, on the American trauma of September 11. The protagonist of »Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close« is a child who lost his father in the attacks on New York. The handling of this loss is described in the precocious vocabulary of the nine-year-old and associated with the destiny of his grandparents, who survived the bombing of Dresden. Even more prominently than in the first novel, this book incorporates graphic elements, from bold or even illegible typefaces to photographs. Foer also attests to an affinity with art in his book, »Joe« (2006), which emerged from a collaboration with the sculptor Richard Serra and the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Foer is co-editor of »The Future Dictionary of America« (2004), a compilation of mock vocabulary with entries by writers such as Stephen King, Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, Edward Hirsch, C.K. Williams, Joyce Carol Oates and Art Spiegelman. Foer has been awarded numerous distinctions for his work, among them the Zoetrope: All Story Fiction Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, the Guardian First Book Prize and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. Foer completed his libretto »Seven Attempted Escapes from Silence« in 2005. It was commissioned by the German State Opera in Berlin with the premiere on September 14, 2005. Foer lives with his wife, the writer Nicole Krauss, in Brooklyn and currently holds a scholarship from the American Academy in Berlin.
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