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Nathan Englander

NYS Writers Institute, March 28, 2000

4:15 p.m. Seminar | Campus Center 375, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Assembly Hall, Campus Center, Uptown Campus

Cosponsored by the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center


Nathan Englander
is the author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (1999), a debut collection of nine short stories heralded by many writers and critics as one of the most satisfying and original volumes of short fiction to have emerged in some time. The stories are powerfully inventive and often haunting, steeped in the weight of Jewish history and in the customs of Orthodox life. What makes these stories remarkable is the largeness of their spirit--a spirit that finds in doubt a doorway to faith, and in despair a chance for the heart to deepen.

englanderrelief.jpg - 8079 BytesEnglander envisions a group of Polish Jews herded toward a train bound for Auschwitz and in a deft imaginative twist turns them into acrobats tumbling out of harm's way; he takes an elderly wigmaker and makes her, for a single moment, beautiful; he sets a Protestant man in the back seat of a New York taxi, where in a sudden moment of epiphany he undergoes a religious conversation to orthodox Judaism. There is no shortage of humor in these and the other six stories that make up For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, but there is something much more as well, a quality of wisdom that would seem to transcend the author's twenty-seven years. As Michiko Kakutani writes in the New York Times, "Englander's voice is. . .keenly attuned to both the absurdities of life and its undertow of sadness and disappointment.

Several critics have remarked that Englander's stories are reminiscent of the works of writers such as Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Isaac Singer and Philip Roth in their exploration of Jewish experience, but also in their tone and spirit. Other critics, such as Ann Beattie, have emphasized Englander's originality, "Every so often there's a new voice that entirely revitalizes the short story. It happened with Richard Ford, and with Denis Johnson, and with Thom Jones. It's happening again with Nathan Englander, whose precise, funny, heartbreaking, well-controlled but never contrived stories open a window on a fascinating landscape we might never have known was there. It's the best story collection I've read in ages."

Nathan Englander grew up in New York and now lives in Jerusalem. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recent recipient of a Pushcart Prize. His stories have appeared in Story and The New Yorker.

"An extraordinary debut collection. . .Brilliant. . . Hilarious. . .Profound. . .A revelation of the human condition." - James E. Young, New York Times Book Review

"Anyone anywhere who loves good stories will take these wonderful tales to heart." - Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

"Englander fills each of these pieces with vivid life, with characters that jump off the page." - Dan Cryer, Newsday

Additional Links:
Writers Online Magazine Article
Daily Gazette Article
Albany Times Union Article
Random House

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.