Hope: A Tragedy
Shalom Auslander: Hope: A Tragedy (New York: Beaverhead Books, 2012).
It is not uncommon to have to suspend reality in order to enjoy a novel. Auslander invites and then encourages us to accept an altered reality in order to enjoy this book, if enjoy is the right word. It is funny. But it is also, a bit absurd. A Jew who is an exaggeration of most of the stereotypes that we have heard. A wife who is tolerant, but has her breaking point. A real-estate agent that secures clients by berating them with psychological observations that, while true, are confrontative. A Psychologist who is so bluntly cold and harsh that he creates a client who is dependent upon him to assess the truth. Ann Frank still alive decades after the end of World War II. We know these things are not the way our world works, but somehow they all begin to make sense in this novel that can make you laugh and cry at the same time. Once you suspend disbelief, the story carries you on a wild and wonderful trip.
The theme indicated in the title carries throughout the book. Hope can be the reason for tragedy. It can be the source of amazing cruelty. People who expect the world to change often try to make it change in ways that create enormous suffering for others. The unintended consequences of hope are often tragic.
Auslander doesn’t convince anyone. But he certainly entrains us with a fun story.