Jonathan Safran Foer

This article is about the American writer. For the Australian media personality, see John Safran.
Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer in 2008
Born (1977-02-21) February 21, 1977
Washington, D.C.
Occupation Novelist, short story writer
Nationality American
Alma mater Princeton University (AB 1999)
Spouse Nicole Krauss (m. 2004; separated 2014)
Children 2

Jonathan Safran Foer (born February 21, 1977) is an American novelist. He is best known for his novels Everything Is Illuminated (2002), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), and for his non-fiction work Eating Animals (2009). His most recent novel, Here I Am, was published in 2016. He teaches creative writing at New York University.[1]

Early life and education

Foer was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Albert Foer, a lawyer and president of the American Antitrust Institute, and Esther Safran Foer, a child of Holocaust survivors born in Poland, who is now Senior Advisor at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.[2][3] Foer is the middle son in this Jewish family; his older brother, Franklin, is a former editor of The New Republic and his younger brother, Joshua, is the founder of Atlas Obscura. Foer was a "flamboyant" and sensitive child who, at the age of 8, was injured in a classroom chemical accident that resulted in "something like a nervous breakdown drawn out over about three years," during which "he wanted nothing, except to be outside his own skin."[2]

Foer attended Georgetown Day School and in 1994 traveled to Israel with other North American Jewish teenagers in a program sponsored by Bronfman youth fellowships.[4] In 1995, while a freshman at Princeton University, he took an introductory writing course with author Joyce Carol Oates,[5] who took an interest in his writing, telling him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy."[6] Foer later recalled that "she was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that."[6] Oates served as the advisor to Foer's senior thesis, an examination of the life of his maternal grandfather, the Holocaust survivor Louis Safran. For his thesis, Foer received Princeton's Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize.

After graduating from Princeton, Foer attended briefly the Mount Sinai School of Medicine before dropping out to pursue his writing career.[7]


Foer graduated from Princeton in 1999 with a degree in philosophy,[2] and traveled to Ukraine to expand his thesis. In 2001, he edited the anthology A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell, to which he contributed the short story, "If the Aging Magician Should Begin to Believe". His Princeton thesis grew into a novel, Everything Is Illuminated, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002. The book earned him a National Jewish Book Award (2001)[8] and a Guardian First Book Award (2002).[9] Foer shared the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize with fellow authors Will Heinrich and Monique Truong in 2004.[10] In 2005, Liev Schreiber wrote and directed a film adaptation of the novel, which starred Elijah Wood.[11]

Foer's second novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, was published in 2005. In it, Foer used 9/11 as a backdrop for the story of 9-year-old Oskar Schell, who learns how to deal with the death of his father in the World Trade Center. The novel used writing techniques known as visual writing. It follows multiple but interconnected storylines, is peppered with photographs of doorknobs and other such oddities, and ends with a 14-page flipbook. Foer's use of these techniques resulted in both praise[12] and excoriation[13] from critics. Warner Bros. and Paramount turned the novel into a film, produced by Scott Rudin[14] and directed by Stephen Daldry.[15]

In 2005, Foer wrote the libretto for an opera titled Seven Attempted Escapes From Silence, which premiered at the Berlin State Opera on September 14, 2005.[16] In 2006 he recorded the narration for the documentary If This is Kosher..., an exposé of the kosher certification process that advocates Jewish vegetarianism.[17]

Foer in New York to discuss his book Eating Animals.

In spring 2008, Foer taught writing for the first time as a visiting professor of fiction at Yale University.[18] He is currently a writer-in-residence in the graduate creative writing program at New York University.[19] Foer published his third novel, Tree of Codes, in November 2010. In March 2012, The New American Haggadah, edited by him and translated by Nathan Englander, was released to mixed reviews.

In 2009, Foer published his third book, Eating Animals. A New York Times bestseller,[20] Eating Animals provides a morally dense discussion of some of the ramifications that followed the proliferation of factory farms. It attempts to explain why and how humans can be so loving to our companion animals while simultaneously being indifferent to others,[21] and explores what this inconsistency tells us about ourselves―what kinds of stories emerge from this selectivity. The book offers a significant focus on “storytelling”―the title of both the first and the last chapters of the book. Storytelling is Foer’s way of recognizing and dealing with the complexity of the subject that is eating animals, and suggests that, ultimately, our food choices tell stories about who we are, or, as Foer has it in his book, “stories about food are stories about us―our history and our values.”[22]

In May 2012 Foer signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown. His novel, Escape From Children's Hospital, was due for publication in 2014, but is no longer on the publisher's schedule.[23][24]

Foer also serves as a board member for Farm Forward, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture.[25]



He has been an occasional vegetarian since the age of 10,[26] and in 2006 he recorded the narration for the documentary If This is Kosher..., an exposé of the kosher certification process that advocates Jewish vegetarianism.[17] In his childhood, teen, and college years, he called himself vegetarian but still often ate meat. Foer's first book of non-fiction, Eating Animals, was published on November 2, 2009.[27] He said that he had long been "uncertain about how I felt [about eating meat]" and that the birth of his first child inspired "an urgency because I would have to make decisions on his behalf".[26]

Personal life

In June 2004, Foer married writer Nicole Krauss. They lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York, and have children.[26] The couple separated amicably in 2014 and now live in different homes elsewhere in Brooklyn, in proximity to one another.[28]

He is an avid coffee drinker, and gets up daily at 4:00 am to start to write.[29]


Because of Foer's frequent use of modernist literary devices, some view him as a polarizing figure in modern literature. In his critical article "Extremely Cloying and Incredibly False," Harry Siegel wrote in the New York Press, "Foer is supposed to be our new Philip Roth, though his fortune-cookie syllogisms and pointless illustrations and typographical tricks don't at all match up to or much resemble Roth even at his most inane."[30] The Huffington Post contributor Anis Shivani included him in his list of the fifteen most overrated modern American writers.[31]





See also


  1. "Jonathan Safran Foer Joins Faculty, CWP – NYU". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Deborah Solomon. "The Rescue Artist", The New York Times, 2005-02-27. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  3. "Our Staff: Esther Safran Foer, Senior Advisor". Sixth & I. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  4. "What We Learn". Bronfman Fellows. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  5. Margo Nash. "Learning to Write From the Masters", The New York Times, 2002-12-01. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  6. 1 2 Robert Birnbaum. "Jonathan Safran Foer: Author of Everything is Illuminated talks with Robert Birnbaum", Identity Theory, 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  7. Anemona Hartocollis. "Getting Into Med School Without Hard Sciences", The New York Times, 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  8. "NJBA Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  9. Gibbons, Fiachra (2002-12-04). "First journey ends with Guardian book prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  10. "PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize Winners". PEN America. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  11. Scott, A. O. (16 September 2005). "A Journey Inspired by Family Becomes One of Forgiveness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  12. Kirn, Walter (2005-04-03). "'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close': Everything Is Included". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  13. Siegel, Harry (2005-04-20). "Extremely Cloying & Incredibly False". Our Town.
  14. "Press Release for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
  15. "Stephen Daldry to Bring Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to the Screen". 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  16. Quinn, Emily. "Opera With Libretto by Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer Will Premiere in Berlin in September", Playbill, 2005-07-25. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  17. 1 2 Foer, Jonathan Safran. "If This Is Kosher...". Archived from the original on 2011-05-27.
  18. Torbati, June (16 October 2007). "Famed Author to Teach Fiction". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  19. "Creative Writing Program:Faculty". New York University. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  20. "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - December 6, 2009 - The New York Times". Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  21. "Flesh of Your Flesh". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  22. Safran Foer, Jonathan (2009). Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-316-08664-6.
  23. "Foer's next novel deals with childhood tragedy". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  24. Alison Flood. "Jonathan Safran Foer to publish first novel in a decade". The Guardian, December 21, 2015.
  25. "Farm Forward Mission". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  26. 1 2 3 "Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer", The Young and Hungry, 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2009-05-24. Archived May 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. listing for Eating Animals. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  28. "Authors Foer, Krauss have been separated for a year". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  29. Gabrielle Langholtz. "Appetites: Jonathan Safran Foer," Edible Brooklyn 11, Spring 2011, pp. 18–19.
  30. ""Extremely Cloying & Incredibly False: Why the Author of Everything Is Illuminated is a Fraud and a Hack" by Harry Siegel". New York Press. 2005-04-20. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
  31. Shivani, Anis. "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers". The Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  32. "Jonathan Safran Foer's New Novel Wrestles With the Demands of Jewish Identity". The New York Times Book Review. September 9, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  33. "Jonathan Safran Foer | Granta Best of Young American Novelists 2". Granta. 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  34. "American Academy Project: Haggadah".
  35. Jon Michaud (3 June 2010). "Reading List: The Future is Now". The New Yorker. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  36. "Jonathan Safran Foer Named to Holocaust Memorial Council". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
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