Shalom Auslander: From ‘Foreskin’ to Frank
Shalom Auslander is not one to tackle safe subjects. In his critically acclaimed 2007 memoir, “Foreskin’s Lament,” Auslander waxed philosophically (and, at times, hilariously) on leaving his Jewish faith. Now he’s branching into fiction with his audacious new novel, “Hope: A Tragedy,” which revolves around the main character of Solomon Kugel, a man who finds a very elderly — and very temperamental — Anne Frank living in his attic.
Did Auslander worry about taking on such a revered figure as Frank? “No, for me that is part of the fun,” he says with a slight laugh. But Auslander points out that he didn’t intentionally set out to include Frank. “[Writing the book] started out with Solomon. I liked the idea of a main character whose flaw was hope; that it’s a flaw, like dishonesty or cowardice. That idea was the beginning of everything.”
From that notion, Auslander was able to tackle the idea of genocide and, as he says, “the big hope is that it won’t happen again.” Which, of course, brings the reader to Anne Frank, history’s most iconic Holocaust victim.
“The challenge of working with her was you don’t want to make fun of her. You don’t want to f— with something so revered,” he notes. “[In the book] there is something unlikeable about what she has become. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t like what she has become, too. And that connects into hope and history and moving on. It just all sort of clicked.”