What if the Holocaust’s most famous victim hadn’t died in Bergen-Belsen but had continued living in hiding, moving furtively from attic to attic, until she found herself a perch in a house in upstate New York? That’s the premise of Hope: A Tragedy, the new novel by Shalom Auslander. It follows Solomon Kugel, the owner of the house, who discovers an ancient, haggard Anne Frank upstairs struggling to finish a follow-up to her famous diary. Kugel is put-upon; his marriage is strained, he flails at work, and his mother, who lives with him, is obsessed with Jewish persecution and pretends that she herself was a victim of the Nazis. In addition, Kugel is in ongoing conversation with a guru who posits that nothing good ever comes of optimism.
The novel, Auslander’s first, is both entertaining and disconcerting and Auslander, a Tablet columnist, joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss German tourguides, Palestinian cabdrivers, and the pros and cons of living with hope. (To buy tickets to see Auslander discuss the novel in person on January 25 in San Francisco, click here.) Warning: The interview includes explicit language. [Running time: 20:51.]