Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer (/fɔːr/;[1] born February 21, 1977) is an American novelist. He is known for his novels Everything Is Illuminated (2002), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005), Here I Am (2016), and for his non-fiction works Eating Animals (2009) and We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast (2019).[2] He teaches creative writing at New York University.[3]

Jonathan Safran Foer
Safran Foer in 2008
Safran Foer in 2008
Born (1977-02-21) February 21, 1977 (age 45)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Alma materPrinceton University
Notable worksEverything Is Illuminated (2002)
(m. 2004; div. 2014)
ParentsEsther Safran Foer (mother)

Early life and educationEdit

Safran Foer was born in Washington, D.C. as 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.[4][5] Safran Foer is the middle son of a 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 and of Sefaria. Safran 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."[4][6]

Safran 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.[7] In 1995, while a freshman at Princeton University, he took an introductory writing course with author Joyce Carol Oates,[8] who took an interest in his writing, telling him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy."[9] Safran 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."[9] Safran Foer graduated with an A.B. in philosophy from Princeton in 1999 after completing a 40-page-long senior thesis, titled "Before Reading The Book of Anticedents: Intention, Literary Interpretation, and the Hypothesized Author", under the supervision of Gideon Rosen.[10] Oates served as the advisor to Safran Foer's creative writing senior thesis, an examination of the life of his maternal grandfather, the Holocaust survivor Louis Safran. For his thesis, Safran Foer received Princeton's Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize.[11][12]

After graduating from Princeton, Safran Foer briefly attended the Mount Sinai School of Medicine before dropping out to pursue his writing career.[13]


Safran Foer graduated from Princeton in 1999 with a degree in philosophy,[4] 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)[14][15] and a Guardian First Book Award (2002).[16] Safran Foer shared the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize with fellow authors Will Heinrich and Monique Truong in 2004.[17] In 2005, Liev Schreiber wrote and directed a film adaptation of the novel, which starred Elijah Wood.[18]

Safran Foer's second novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, was published in 2005. In it, Safran 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. Safran Foer's use of these techniques resulted in both praise[19] and excoriation[20] from critics. Warner Bros. and Paramount turned the novel into a film, produced by Scott Rudin[21] and directed by Stephen Daldry.[22]

Safran Foer wrote the libretto for an opera titled Seven Attempted Escapes From Silence, which premiered at the Berlin State Opera on September 14, 2005.[23]

Safran Foer in New York to discuss his book Eating Animals.

In 2008, Safran Foer taught writing for the first time as a visiting professor of fiction at Yale University.[24] As of 2021, he teaches in the graduate creative writing program at New York University.[25] Safran Foer published his third novel, Tree of Codes, in November 2010. In March 2012, The New American Haggadah, edited by Safran Foer and translated by Nathan Englander, was released to mixed reviews.[citation needed]

In 2009, Safran Foer published his third book, Eating Animals. A New York Times bestseller,[26] 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,[27] 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 Safran 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 Safran Foer has it in his book, "stories about food are stories about us―our history and our values."[28]

In May 2012, Safran 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.[29][30] In September 2016, he released the novel Here I Am.[31]

In 2019, as part of the book tour for We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, Safran Foer took part in an on stage conversation with Samin Nosrat about eating and climate change.[32]

Safran Foer serves as a board member for Farm Forward, a nonprofit organization that implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture.[33]


Safran Foer has been an outspoken critic of the meat industry. In 2006, he recorded the narration for the documentary If This is Kosher..., an exposé of the kosher certification process that advocates Jewish vegetarianism.[34] Safran Foer's first book of non-fiction, Eating Animals (2009), addresses problems associated with industrialized meat and the ensuing ethical concerns.[35] 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".[36] In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Safran Foer reiterated his argument that Americans should eat less meat on account of the meat industry's social, environmental, and humanitarian consequences.[37] In his personal life, Safran Foer has been an occasional vegetarian since the age of 10.[36]

Personal lifeEdit

In June 2004, Safran Foer married writer Nicole Krauss. They lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York, and have two children. The couple divorced in 2014.[38] From 2015 until 2017, Safran Foer dated actress Michelle Williams.[39][40]


Because of Safran Foer's frequent use of modernist literary devices, he is often named as a polarizing figure in modern literature. In his critical article "Extremely Cloying & 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."[41] In response to charges of historical inaccuracy in Everything is Illuminated, Safran Foer defended himself in The Guardian, writing, "Rather than aligning itself with either 'how things were' or 'how things could have been', the novel measures the difference between the two, and by so doing attempts to reflect a kind of experiential (rather than historical or journalistic) truth."[42][43] The Huffington Post contributor Anis Shivani included Safran Foer in his list of the 15 most overrated modern American writers.[44]




  • The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning (2005, essay, ISBN 978-0141023069)
  • Eating Animals (2009)
  • We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast (2019)[45]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jonathan Safran Foer over Dagen Zonder Vlees, retrieved 2019-09-08
  2. ^ We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
  3. ^ "Jonathan Safran Foer Joins Faculty". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Deborah Solomon. "The Rescue Artist", The New York Times, 2005-02-27. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  5. ^ "Our Staff: Esther Safran Foer, Senior Advisor Archived 2016-10-05 at the Wayback Machine". Sixth & I. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  6. ^ Sargent, Edward D. (1985-08-13). "Science Lab Blast Injures 4 D.C. Pupils". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  7. ^ "What We Learn". Bronfman Fellows. 2014-10-16. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  8. ^ Margo Nash. "Learning to Write From the Masters", The New York Times, 2002-12-01. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  9. ^ a b Robert Birnbaum. "Jonathan Safran Foer: Author of Everything is Illuminated talks with Robert Birnbaum", Identity Theory, 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  10. ^ Foer, Jonathan S. (1999). "Before Reading The Book of Anticedents: Intention, Literary Interpretation, and the Hypothesized Author". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (May 26, 2003). "Author Interview: Jonathan Safran Foer". Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  12. ^ Gilman, Sander (2013). Multiculturalism and the Jews. Routledge. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-135-20820-2.
  13. ^ Anemona Hartocollis. "Getting Into Med School Without Hard Sciences", The New York Times, 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  14. ^ "NJBA Winners Archived 2015-09-07 at the Wayback Machine". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  15. ^ "Past Winners - Fiction". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  16. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (2002-12-04). "First journey ends with Guardian book prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  17. ^ "PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize Winners". PEN America. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  18. ^ Scott, A. O. (16 September 2005). "A Journey Inspired by Family Becomes One of Forgiveness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  19. ^ Kirn, Walter (2005-04-03). "'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close': Everything Is Included". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  20. ^ Siegel, Harry (2005-04-20). "Extremely Cloying & Incredibly False". Our Town.
  21. ^ "Press Release for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
  22. ^ "Stephen Daldry to Bring Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to the Screen". 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  23. ^ Quinn, Emily. "Opera With Libretto by Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer Will Premiere in Berlin in September", Playbill, 2005-07-25. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  24. ^ Torbati, June (16 October 2007). "Famed Author to Teach Fiction". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  25. ^ "Creative Writing Program:Faculty". New York University. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  26. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - December 6, 2009 - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  27. ^ "Flesh of Your Flesh". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  28. ^ Safran Foer, Jonathan (2009). Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 9. ISBN 978-0-316-08664-6.
  29. ^ "Foer's next novel deals with childhood tragedy". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  30. ^ Alison Flood. "Jonathan Safran Foer to publish first novel in a decade". The Guardian, December 21, 2015.
  31. ^ a b "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.
  32. ^ "Berkeley: Samin Nosrat and Jonathan Safran Foer talk food, climate change". The Mercury News. 2019-08-21. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  33. ^ "Farm Forward Mission". Archived from the original on 2016-05-29. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  34. ^ Foer, Jonathan Safran. "If This Is Kosher..." Archived from the original on 2011-05-27.
  35. ^ listing for Eating Animals. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  36. ^ a b "Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer", The Young and Hungry, 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2009-05-24. Archived May 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Foer, Jonathan Safran (21 May 2020). "The End of Meat Is Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  38. ^ Weir, Keziah (12 September 2017). "Nicole Krauss Talks Divorce, Freedom, And New Beginnings". Elle. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  39. ^ Lawson, Richard (29 July 2015). "Michelle Williams and Jonathan Safran Foer Might Be the Most Bobo Brooklyn Couple Ever". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  40. ^ Ryan, Lisa (19 July 2017). "Michelle Williams Kissed Someone, but it Definitely Wasn't Jonathan Safran Foer". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  41. ^ ""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.
  42. ^ Mullan, John (19 March 2010). "Week three: Jonathan Safran Foer on the origins of Everything is Illuminated". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  43. ^ ""NOT Everything is Illuminated by Ivan Katchanovski". Prague Post. 2004-10-07. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
  44. ^ Shivani, Anis. "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers". The Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  45. ^ "We Are the Weather | Jonathan Safran Foer | Macmillan".
  46. ^ "Jonathan Safran Foer | Granta Best of Young American Novelists 2". Granta. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  47. ^ "American Academy Project: Haggadah". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18.
  48. ^ Jon Michaud (3 June 2010). "Reading List: The Future is Now". The New Yorker. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  49. ^ "Jonathan Safran Foer Named to Holocaust Memorial Council". Jewish Journal. 2013-02-07. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  50. ^ "Forward 50 2016 - Jonathan Safran Foer - Triumphant Return With a New Novel". The Forward. The Forward Association, Inc. Retrieved 25 May 2017.

External linksEdit