Everything is Iluminated: Chapters 14-15
Summary – Chapter Fourteen, ‘Falling in Love’ and Chapter Fifteen, ‘The Wedding Reception Was So Extraordinary’ or ‘It All Goes Downhill After the Wedding, 1941’
Alex narrates in Chapter Fourteen as he explains how he tells Jonathan and his grandfather that the woman is Augustine. Jonathan repeats her name and Alex says ‘let us roost’ and ‘and we will illuminate everything’.
The woman’s home consists of two rooms and clothes and shoes and photographs are everywhere. There are also numerous boxes with writing on, such as ‘Weddings and Other Celebrations’. She prepares some food and says how she cannot afford meat. Jonathan wants Alex to ask her about his grandfather, but Alex says they must go slowly and they watch as she cooks.
Alex’s grandfather calls her beautiful and Alex says the same. Jonathan asks what they are talking about and Alex explains to the woman that he is American, and she asks if America is in Poland. He makes the sound of a plane (to explain how Jonathan got there) and this distresses her and she says ‘no more’.
Jonathan gives her an envelope full of money to thank her for saving his grandfather. Alex’s grandfather asks her to return with them to Odessa and he calls her Augustine. The woman asks ‘who is Augustine?’, and they show her the photograph again. She cries again and says she is not the girl.
Alex’s grandfather asks if she knows the man and she says yes, and that he is Safran. She leaves the room and comes back with a box that has ‘Remains’ written on it. She shows them photographs and looks only at Alex and then shows him Rivka’s wedding ring.
She explains how Rivka had hidden it in a jar in the ground and says that the ground is still filled with rings, money, pictures and ‘Jewish things’. Jonathan does not ask what she was saying and never has done.
She then holds up a photograph and says ‘here is Herschel’ and Alex’s grandfather says to tell Jonathan that they are leaving. She tells him not to go, and Grandfather tells her to shut up. Alex apologizes and asks her to continue. She says how he lived in Kolki and Herschel and Eli were best friends. Eli had to shoot Herschel because if he did not, they would have shot him. Grandfather tells her to shut up and punches the table, but she continues and insists she is telling the truth. She then shows them a hair clip that belonged to Miriam.
She goes on to talk about another photograph and says she is from Trachimbrod. She is the only remaining one as all the others were killed – except one or two others. Grandfather says again that this is not true and that she should have died with the others.
On Jonathan’s prompting, she talks about Safran and says to Alex to tell him he was the first boy she kissed. She also says he lost a wife and two babies in the war. Grandfather asks how she can do this as she looks through her box, and she does not answer. She shows them a photograph of her and Safran. She says how her mother liked him, but says she will never utter her name (her mother’s) when Alex asks. She then finds another photograph of Safran and he is with his wife after they married. She says to tell Jonathan that she was at the wedding. He asks what it was like and she says how Zosha was beautiful.
She goes on to explain how nothing of Trachimbrod exists now, except what is in her house. She reminisces happily and then switches and says she is ‘so ashamed’ and that ‘you had to do anything’. Grandfather says she should be ashamed, and Alex says she should not.
Jonathan asks through Alex about how his grandfather escaped and Alex’s grandfather says she does not know anything. He calls her a liar. She asks to be alone with him and Jonathan and Alex go outside. Alex asks Jonathan about his grandmother and Jonathan describes her. He says how she dyes her hair and has one blue eye and one green one. He talks more about her on Alex’s prompting and Alex looks at his diary, which he sees has things that have happened and not happened yet. Finally, Grandfather and the woman who is referred to as Augustine come out and he says that she is taking them to Trachimbrod.
In Chapter Fifteen, Jonathan narrates and the narrative is concerned with his grandfather and the wedding arrangements being made for him and his future bride, Zosha. Her father made money from a trout venture and they live in the Double House. The wedding reception is described as ‘the event of 1941’. A wind blows through the house and disturbs the place settings. Safran goes in the cellar and Zosha’s younger sister is there. She takes her underwear from under his lapel and pulls him into her arms.
Analysis - Chapter Fourteen, ‘Falling in Love’ and Chapter Fifteen, ‘The Wedding Reception Was So Extraordinary’ or ‘It All Goes Downhill After the Wedding, 1941’
In Chapter Fourteen, the woman who is referred to as Augustine takes on more significance as it is revealed that she is a custodian of sorts and her home is full of remnants from the past. She is also the keeper of secrets and readers should note the angry reaction of Alex’s grandfather when she speaks of Herschel (who has been mentioned by Alex previously in a letter to Jonathan).