Nathan Englander’s first book, the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, was published in 2000 to enormous critical and popular acclaim. For nearly a decade, he’s been working on his first novel, a heart-rending family drama that takes place during Argentina’s Dirty War, while also looking back to an earlier period when Buenos Aires’ Jewish community included—but refused to recognize—a busy underworld of pimps and prostitutes.
In the novel, Englander beautifully renders the world of his characters, and yet he had only traveled to Argentina once, in 1991, for a friend’s wedding. Recently, Nextbook sent him there again, to see how it compares to the place he imagined. He’s back now, and he joined us for a conversation about the trip, and about the new novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, out this month.