Searching for a Jewish past is the topic of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes. His best-selling, Hollywood-adapted debut novel Everything is Illuminated (2002) already depicted a young man on a trip to the Ukraine in search of his family’s past. His new book is also a search for Jewish roots, though this time artistic, rather than biographical.
Experimenting with the concept of absence, the book reproduces parts of Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles, the English translation of one of two surviving texts of a writer, whose other works were lost when the National Socialists seized his Polish hometown Drohobycz in 1941 and murdered its citizens, including Schulz, in 1942. As if to depict the loss of literature by destroying the letters in a book, Foer cut into Schulz’s pages, leaving only select words and half sentences behind, thereby reducing, already in its title, Street of Crocodiles to Tree of Codes. Continue reading