The Ministry of Special Cases (Vintage International)
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From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, Nathan Englander's debut novel The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina's Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won't accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, a terrifying, byzantine refuge of last resort. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander brilliantly captures the grief of a nation.
at her, looking for a sign. When he turned to Lillian he found her jaw set forward and a rage to match his own. “I can’t do this,” he said. “Fine,” she said, so quickly Kaddish wasn’t sure he’d even spoken. He looked back to Frida. He was going to tell her the truth. Let Frida hear what he had to say about Pato, and let her decide which one of them she wanted to believe. But Lillian had been his wife a long time. Lillian knew him better than anyone else in the world. “Don’t say it,” she said,
try.” “Why do you live here?” he said. She was wondering if he meant Argentina and, already insulted, she said, “Where? I’m not sure what you mean.” “In the heart of the city,” he said. “I’m not an expert on Jews either, but I know enough of your history. We live in a vast country that reaches to the very end of the earth, and most of the Jews live in this neighborhood, meters away from the seat of power, at the mouth of the basin into which this whole country flows.” “Why wouldn’t we?” “You
another, signifying ease and flow and continuity. He was not deceiving them. The process was to be that smooth—that is, for those with proof of death. Gustavo had heard whisperings of his own. That is why, in each instance, he made sure to state this point out loud. The customers noted it or they didn’t. It was Lillian writing up these policies, and Frida typing the forms, who dealt with the addresses where payments were to go. In the event of misfortune the beneficiaries were in Havana and
tell me,” she said, “that you got a new customer.” “The woman swore she’d pay cash,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll have money to line our pockets. And I still have to figure what to do with that gold.” Lillian shifted in the chair. She didn’t mention her severance. Her tin was full again; she’d gone straight from Gustavo to the bank. The freezer had frozen over so Lillian wrapped the tin in a rag and put it under the sink. There were other hiding places as well. She’d spread the money about. “We
are at issue. He is a vandal, your husband. He takes money to desecrate the dead. I don’t want to make comparisons. Please don’t push me to say what sort of people topple and smash Jewish graves.” Lillian felt a surge to the pulse in her neck, the blood pushing with a shush past the temples and into her head. She felt the fury and speed of it must be apparent to Feigenblum. She dropped her gaze to her hands for a glimpse of those slow, steady veins. “It takes too much to understand how you keep