The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

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Synopsis

From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, Nathan Englander's debut novel The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina's Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won't accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, a terrifying, byzantine refuge of last resort. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander brilliantly captures the grief of a nation.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Nathan Englander

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Nathan Englander's short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and numerous anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Englander is the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, which earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. www.nathanenglander.com
 
Published November 15, 2009 by Vintage. 434 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Ministry of Special Cases

Kirkus Reviews

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One stunning twist discloses Pato’s fate in a way neither parent will ever accept, and the novel climaxes where it began, in a cemetery, where Kaddish hopes, against hope, to beat the murderers at their own game.

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The New York Times

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Who is this Nathan Englander, at 37 so young in novelist years, but already possessed of an old master’s voice?

Jun 03 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

The Guardian

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The Ministry of Special Cases Nathan Englander 340pp, Faber, £14.99 If, as Homer has it, Zeus sends us suffering so that future generations will have something to write about, we can all feel proud of how much remarkable copy our past century has given to the literature of today.

Aug 18 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

Publishers Weekly

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When Pato is taken from home, Kaddish learns what it really means to erase identity, because no one in authority will admit Pato has been arrested.

Mar 19 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

Entertainment Weekly

Erasure — of epitaphs, noses, identity, and life itself — is the central motif in The Ministry of Special Cases, Nathan Englander's surreal tale, which revolves around the disappearance of Kaddish's son, Pato, nabbed by the military regime.

Apr 20 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

The Independent

It is Kaddish's surrealistic, disturbing (and often grimly funny) dealings with this monolithic department that invites comparisons with one of the author's great forebears, Kafka, although Englander has disavowed such comparisons.

Aug 30 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

USA Today

In a "world that runs on shame," as he puts it, the husband makes a living by sneaking into a Jewish cemetery to chisel family names off gravestones on behalf of relatives who want to erase traces of disreputable ancestors, who had been gangsters and prostitutes.The family's rebellious, pot-smoki...

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Bookmarks Magazine

Jenny Minton Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars "The Ministry of Special Cases—which may have its roots in Englander’s stay in Buenos Aires in 1990—is a mesmerizing rumination on loss and memory, spun out with a fabulism that recalls Isaac Bashevis Singer and only serves to heighten the absurd...

Aug 03 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

Chamber Four

The other children of whores shun Kaddish by day, but by night they pay him to climb into the Society’s cemetery and chisel the names of their parents off the gravestones, for 1976 in Argentina is “… no time to stand out, not for Jews or Gentiles.” Kaddish’s son, Pato, studies history and sociol...

Mar 09 2009 | Read Full Review of The Ministry of Special Cases

Tottenville Review

His first two books, the much praised short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and his wonderful novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, both interrogate the modern varied Jewish experience for often remarkable insights into the more universal story of humanity.

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