Characters and birthday: Jonathan Safran Foer

One of the most bizarre experiences — and the most exciting along — of my life was certainly the one singing Happy Birthday To You to an international renowned writer.

Jonathan Safran Foer celebrates fourty years right now. We met him a few days ago thanks to

Tempo di Libri, the milanese kermesse dedicated entirely to literature, which takes place in April to the Rho Fiera (Rho Fair) from 19 to 23.

Thanks to the readings of Fabrizio Gifuni and the pleasant interview with Chiara Serafin, I could know better the Jonathan’s point of view. He’s a cultured and refined man, with a heavy frame on his glasses and a serious look. He talked about Here I Am, the novel that I reviewed for the first BookEater’s club. He also talked about his distances and characters. The distances that Jacob, the male protagonist, measures, continuously. When to do so is Julia, then the problems begin. It is created a kind of chessboard, on which they are taking to move according to calculated and careful steps, making their relationship cold and impersonal.

Foer has by now four novels — Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tree of Codes and Here I Am — all written after some time apart. He told us that, when he finished Here I Am, something happened that usually would not happen: when giving it to the publisher, he was thrilled. That book was able to passionate and interest him by all the time, without ever tiring himself.

When Chiara Serafin asks him if it is a science fiction novel, Jonathan says he would not want his relationship with the book depended only on its nature. He tells us that he never asked him before, and not only; Foer doesn’t read his own books, because are always others to give the impressions about it. And he finds really remarkable that literature and its criticism use the same language.

“Think about it,” he says, “When you look at a picture it is not paint on a canvas to express an opinion about it. The same applies to any other art form, unless for literature”. Today Jonathan turns forty, and this is an idea of reflection for him. It is very recognized in Jacob, because throughout the course of the novel he’s not ready to leave her multiple identities.

Jonathan loves our country. Some time ago he went to the Dolomites with his children for a holiday, and when they left they agreed that will never return. Not in the real sense of the word, but: when they return, they will be simply different. Will no longer be those of today, because in the meanwhile they will be aged, have changed their point of view on life and will give a new value to things.

At the end of it all I was on the subway with a girl who had attended the interview. I had the book under my arm when she raised it smiling and exclaimed “Travel Companions”. And she, who had read all the Foer’s novels, confirmed me how every novel has four different Foer’s souls. As if they were written by four different authors.

But no: instead of that, are we, after all, who change identity all the time.

Happy Birthday, John!