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Extended Audio Sample The Ministry of Special Cases Audiobook, by Nathan Englander Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,817 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nathan Englander Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2007 ISBN: 9780739341940
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From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina’s Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won’t accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence–and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear.
Nathan Englander’s first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, the nature of truth itself, all take shape according to a corrupt government’s whims, one man–one spectacularly hopeless man–fights to overcome his history and his name, and, if for only once in his life, to put things right. The Ministry of Special Cases, like Englander’s stories before it, is a celebration of our humanity, in all its weakness, and–despite that–hope. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • The fate of Argentina’s Jews during the 1976-83 “Dirty War” is depicted with blistering emotional intensity in this stark first novel. . . . Englander’s story collection promised a brilliant future, and that promise is here fulfilled beyond all expectations. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • This is a staggeringly mature work, gracefully and knowledgeably set in a milieu far from the author’s native New York. . . . Four p’s best describe this work: poignant, powerful, political, and yet personal. Booklist (starred review)
  • [A] harrowing and brilliant first novel . . . Englander’s great gifts are an absurdist sense of humor and a brisk, almost breezy narrative voice. He handles his unbearable subjects with the comic panache of a vaudeville artist, before delivering the final, devastating blow. Bookforum
  • Resonates of Singer, yes, but also of Bernard Malamud and Lewis Carroll, plus the Kafka who wrote The Trial . . . You will wonder how a novel about parents looking for and failing to find their lost son, about a machinery of state determined to abolish not only the future but also the past, can be horrifying and funny at the same time. Somehow . . . this one is. Harper’s Magazine
  • A mesmerizing rumination on loss and memory. . . . It's a family drama layered with agonized and often comical filial connections that are stretched to the snapping point by terrible circumstance . . . builds with breathtaking, perfectly wrought pacing and calm, terrifying logic. Los Angeles Times
  • Englander writes with increasing power and authority . . . Gogol, I. B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander’s book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration. Publishers Weekly
  • This chilling book of intrigue examines the slow obliteration of culture and families perpetuated by forces seeking absolute political power. Highly recommended. Library Journal
  • Englander secures his status as a powerful storyteller with this book about the disappearance of the son of a down-and-out Jewish hustler during Argentina’s Dirty War in the seventies. Details
  • Englander's prose moves along with a tempered ferocity -- simple yet deceptively incisive. . . . Englander’s book isn’t so much about the search for a lost boy. It’s about fathers and sons and mothers and faith and community and war and hope and shame. Yes, that’s a lot to pack into 339 pages. But not when a book reads at times with the urgency of a thriller. Esquire
  • Wonderful . . . Since much of the book’s power comes from its relentlessly unfolding plot, it’s not fair even to tell who disappears, let alone whether that person reappears. . . . Englander maintains an undertone of quirky comedy almost to the end of his story. Newsweek
  • [Englander’s] journey into the black hole of paradox would have done Kafka or Orwell proud. People
  • Brace yourself for heartbreak . . . most of the story is so convincingly told that it’s hard to imagine that Englander hasn’t weathered political persecution himself. Time Out New York
  • A vibrant, exquisite, quirky and devastating historical novel–and a gift to readers. . . . This is a story propelled by secrets, and part of Englander's achievement is how well he builds nerve-wrecking tension. . . . Written in crisp, unsentimental prose, The Ministry of Special Cases is as heartbreaking a novel as Sophie's Choice. The Hartford Courant
  • [S]pare, pitch-perfect passages . . . Through deft, understated prose, Englander evokes the incremental way in which fear grips a community, citizens accustom themselves to ignoring those small outrages and how those outrages gradually but inexorably give way to larger atrocities, tolerated by an ever more complicit populace. The Miami Herald
  • The combination of a gift for narrative, a proclivity for pathos, and a lode of arcane knowledge is put to great use in Nathan Englander’s first novel. The Boston Phoenix
  • Nathan Englander bravely wrangles the themes of political liberty and personal loss with the swift style and knowing humor of folklore. In the spirit of the simple ambiguity of its title, The Ministry of Special Cases is carefully contradictory, wise and off-kilter, funny and sad. New York Observer
  • Engrossing . . . Englander perfectly captures the language of disorientation, the tautologies through which the country's oppressors support their own positions and thwart pleading citizens at every turn. Rocky Mountain News
  • As remarkable as Englander’s evocation of a country at war with itself is, his greatest achievement might be the way he manages to do it with a lightness of touch and even a few delicately comic insertions. The heaviness of the subject doesn’t result in correspondingly weighty prose; rather, a risky but flawlessly executed contrast is carried out. And there’s a sting in the tail. How exactly do you come up with an ending for a story about disappearance? . . . Englander finds the answers, and provides a suitably stunning finale to one of the most powerful novels in years. Edmonton Journal
  • This is a rollercoaster of a novel, and while most of the dips are downward, there are memorable moments of hilarity, hope and humanity. Imagine a screwball comedy about one of recent history's darkest and most overlooked periods. . . . The Ministry of Special Cases is a remarkable work of imagination and empathy–a modern-day book of mourning. The Gazette (Canada)
  • One of the 2007 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Isaac | 2/10/2014

    " wow, what a miserable book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kendall | 2/9/2014

    " Echoes of Catch-22 (one of my favorites) to balance out the tragedy of the storyline. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 2/8/2014

    " Good writer. Loved this book. If the government is doing bad things that do not have an effect on us then we do not think of them as a bad government. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine Bathrick | 2/4/2014

    " great writing. great story. educational, funny and heart wrenching. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Clyde | 1/26/2014

    " Don't cry for me Argentina! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ariel | 1/15/2014

    " Better in concept than as a full novel. Still I enjoyed imagining Jewish Buenas Aries. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Donna | 1/15/2014

    " Tried really hard to like this book. Wanted to like it. Was tempted to put it down in the middle, but did finish it. Just didn't like it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ingrid | 11/17/2013

    " took me a while to get into this one. was worth the persistence for its dark wit in the face of absurd reality. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marie | 10/20/2013

    " The writing is good (the scenes of bodily mutilation--nose job, accidental cutting off of fingertip--actually turned my stomach), but I just couldn't get through it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 9/12/2013

    " I read this before I read the book of short stories. I think I had really high expectations for the short stories since there was a lot of fanfare when this was published along the lines of "long-awaited novel" and such. But I thought the novel was quite good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa Rose | 8/30/2013

    " i listened to this on my on cd...what a compelling/tragic/well written story of a Jewish Argentinian family whose son gets "disappeared" and how differently the husband and wife handle the situation. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carola | 8/28/2013

    " Excellent characters; the end is not cheerful "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary Kathryn | 8/25/2013

    " Blech. I read this for a Book Club and, given its critical reception, was really looking forward to it. There are no human beings in this novel, only "characters" who all talk the same. The world of the novel is unsatisfyingly rendered. I couldn't wait for it to be over! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jonathan | 10/18/2012

    " This book is truly a jewel. Englander's prose evokes Isaac Bashevis Singer, Kundera, and, in places, Kafka. Heartbreaking, poetic, and evocative, this is a book of great depth and of great truth. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly | 9/28/2012

    " Well-written, sad, bits of biting humor. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelsey | 9/27/2012

    " An enjoyable read, but a little depressing. Definitely anxiety-inducing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott Mceachern | 7/28/2012

    " Good read. The characters are bright and engaging, passionate and human. The plot veers into unexpected corners, but stays in control for the most part. Englander's prose is tight and spare at points, but tackles the big ideas of shutting down freedom of speech, expression and opinion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel | 7/10/2012

    " Understanding modern literature & historical fiction seem to be the antitheses of each other this novel offers both. EXCELLENT book, should be read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 6/11/2012

    " A devastating look at disappeared in Argentina during the Military Rule. Written in a very unique style. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kenneth | 6/6/2012

    " The story was decent, but it seemed a bit forced, like the author really wasn't that familiar with the setting. I'm not saying I am, but I know of families from the area who underwent similar circumstances so maybe I'm projecting. It's a good book, but a bit overrated. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bonnie S | 7/12/2011

    " Since the reviews for this book were so good, I stuck with it however, it was not one of my favorite. I had to force myself to finish it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jake | 5/6/2011

    " Audio Book. Horrible. Not one good thing happened in the book. In Argentina, their kid got taken and they didn't get him back. No one would help, the kid was thrown out of an airplane into the river. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nicola | 4/25/2011

    " A very interesting story, a handful of breathtaking sentences. From the reviews, I gather this isn't his best work, so I will try 'Relief of Unbearable Urges' and see.... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karen | 1/3/2011

    " Felt like a Kafka book to me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Danielle | 11/6/2010

    " Well-written historical fiction based on the sad but real events of Argentina's history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rita | 10/1/2010

    " sort of like a less wordy henry james where it is all about developing the characters and not much plot but so well done theres no need for plot. wonderfully done but sad "

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About the Author
Author Nathan Englander

Nathan Englander’s short fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, and numerous anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He is the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, which earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About the Narrator

Arthur Morey has won three AudioFile Magazine “Best Of” Awards, and his work has garnered numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and placed him as a finalist for the Audie Award. He has acted in a number of productions, both Off-Broadway in New York and Off-Loop in Chicago. He graduated from Harvard and did graduate work at the University of Chicago. He has won awards for his fiction and drama, worked as an editor with several book publishers, and taught literature and writing at Northwestern University. His plays and songs have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Milan, where he has also performed.