Trachimbrod in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated

Lakhva in 1926, a shtetl near Trochenbrod. PHOTO CREDIT: Pracownia fotograficzna Poleskiej Brygady KOP (the photography lab of the Polish Border Protection Corps). This photo is in the public domain.

“If there is no love in the world, we will make a new world, and we will give it walls, and we will furnish it with soft, red interiors, from the inside out, and give it a knocker that resonates like a diamond falling to a jeweller’s felt so that we should never hear it. Love me, because love doesn’t exist, and I have tried everything that does.”1

Trachimbrod, Ukraine is the fictional mecca of Everything Is Illuminated. The history of Trachimbrod, complete with the unnamed narrator’s Jewish family lineage, unfolds in a magical realism style. It begins in 1791 with the gruesome drowning of Trachim B. and the miraculous survival of a newborn baby, Brod, who is the narrator’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. This story becomes integral to the traditions of the town, and is annually celebrated on Trachimday. The lives of Brod and her progeny are accounted for until the Nazi invasion of the town and subsequent death of the narrator’s grandfather after his emigration to America. In the other part of the narrative, told by Alex in broken English, he recounts the narrator’s search for Augustine, the woman who saved the life of his grandfather during the Nazi attack on Trachimbrod.

Trochenbrod, or Trohinbrod, is located in Ukraine and is the basis for Foer’s Trachimbrod. Like Trachimbrod, Trochenbrod was a shtetl – a small town with a primarily Jewish population. Although most of the events described in the book did not really occur, the destruction of the village by Nazis in 1942 is unfortunately based on historical fact. Nazi-occupation of Ukraine caused the establishment of a ghetto in Trochenbrod when Jews from surrounding areas were forced to move to the shtetl. In August and September of 1942, several thousand Jews were executed during the Nazi liquidation of the town. Although nearly 200 inhabitants were able to flee, only 40 of them survived until the end of the war.

Read more about Trochenbrod on Wikipedia. Find Everything Is Illuminated at a local library or on Amazon.

1Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything Is Illuminated. London: Penguin Books, 2003. 82. Print.

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Author: Emily Pearson

Emily Pearson is a junior at the University of Arizona who is studying English and creative writing.