Posted by: jbwuk | January 14, 2012

Jewish Book Week Interviews: Shalom Auslander

I am particularly looking forward to Shalom Auslander’s third visit to Jewish Book Week. He came for the publication of his first book, a collection of irreverent short stories, Beware of God. You can still listen to the 2006 audio recording of his conversation with Elena Lappin and Naomi Alderman. (The first couple minutes will be a sad reminder of what JBW was like before we had a fabulous technical team brought in.)

Shalom then came back in 2008 for the publication of his autobiography – Foreskin’s Lament – at the slightly early age of 38. That time he was in conversation with the novelist AL Kennedy, a really classic moment of JBW.

He is back with us in 2012  for his first novel: Hope: A Tragedy and will this time be talking to Guardian columnist Bidisha on Sunday 26 February at  12.30 pm. I’m sure this be another unmissable session for any one equipped with a good sense of humour. And yes, Bidisha only goes by her first name and is fantastic fun, warmth and wit.

In his new novel, Shalom Auslander tells the story of a man -a neurotic father in search of the quietest place to bring up his son- who, having moved to the most boring little town in Up State New York, discovers Anne Frank is living in his attic. She is extremely old and trying to write her second book, knowing the first one sold thirty two million copies…Very tough. To make things worse, his mother lives with the family and, although she was born in 1945 and never set foot in Europe or had any relative who died in the Holocaust, has reinvented herself as a survivor, complete with screaming in the morning and very unhealthy obsessions. These is just a tiny glimpse of an extremely funny and provocative novel which, apart from making the reader laugh out loud (and trust me, it doesn’t often happen to me), raises some very serious questions.

The book is already out in the US and will be launched in the UK at JBW. I’ve put both jackets as I find the different choice of illustrations quite amazing (the slightly ridiculous little deer in the US, the wonderfully ironic dove in the UK). Shalom has already garnered some amazing comments:

“Shalom Auslander writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn’t joking.” Howard Jacobson

“A wonderful, twisted, transgressive, heartbreaking, true, and hugely funny book. It will make very many people very angry. It will also make very many people very happy.” A. L. Kennedy

“Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won’t regret it.” John Gray

Here are his answers to our questions:

–  If you could escape to another world, what would there be that is missing here?

Intelligent life.

– What is the book you “inherited” from a parent or teacher that made a profound impression on you?

A Children’s Guide to Why the World Hates You and Everything You Do Is Wrong.

– What is the book you would like to pass on to the future generation?

Hardcover? Mine.

–  What is the most Jewish thing you have ever done?

What’s your hang-up with Jews? It’s weird.

-What is the most important Jewish book of the last 60 years?

Hardcover? Mine.

–  When did you know you would become a writer?

When God appeared in a burning bush and told me so, Jackass.

–  If you were not a writer, what would you be?


–   What is the best piece of advice you ever received?


–  What would your superpower be?

The ability to consume vast amounts of pornography in a single degrading, loathsome evening.

–  Who (living or dead) would you invite to your ideal Friday night dinner?

Back to the fucking Jew thing. I don’t know, Moses? Abraham? God? You tell me.

–  On the very distant day when you will make it to the other side, what would you like God (assuming there is one) to say to you?

“My bad.”



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