Perfect Prose #1: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I’m currently reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Here I Am’, and it got me remembering some of the beautiful passages from his previous novel ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’. The following is one that has always stayed with me. The first time I read it I was on a train to London and silently weeping.


The airport was filled with people coming and going. But it was only your grandfather and me.

I took his daybook and searched its pages. I pointed at, How frustrating, how pathetic, how sad.

He searched through the book and pointed at, The way you just handed me that knife.

I pointed at, If I’d been someone else in a different world I’d’ve done something different.

He pointed at, Sometimes one simply wants to disappear.

I pointed at, There’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself.

He pointed at, How sad.

I pointed at, And I wouldn’t say no to something sweet.

He pointed at, Cried and cried and cried.

I pointed at, Don’t cry.

He pointed at, Broken and confused.

I pointed at, So sad.

He pointed at, Broken and confused.

I pointed at, Something.

He pointed at, Nothing.

I pointed at, Something.

Nobody pointed at, I love you.

There was no way around it. We could not climb over it, or walk until we found its edge.

I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live, Oskar. Because if I were able to live my life again, I would do things differently.

I would change my life.

I would kiss my piano teacher, even if he laughed at me.

I would jump with Mary on the bed, even if I made a fool of myself.

I would send out ugly photographs, thousands of them.

What are we going to do? he wrote.

It’s up to you, I said.

He wrote, I want to go home.

What is home to you?

Home is the place with the most rules.

I understood him.

And we will have to make more rules, I said.

To make it more of a home.



We went straight to the jewelry store. He left the suitcase in the back room. We sold a pair of emerald earrings that day. And a diamond engagement ring. And a gold bracelet for a little girl. And a watch for someone on his way to Brazil.

That night we held each other in bed. He kissed me all over. I believed him. I was not stupid. I was his wife.

The next morning he went to the airport. I didn’t dare feel his suitcase.

I waited for him to come home.

Hours passed. And minutes.

I didn’t open the store at 11:00.

I waited by the window. I still believed in him.

I didn’t eat lunch.

Seconds passed.

The afternoon left. The evening came.

I didn’t eat dinner.

Years were passing through the spaces between moments.

Your father kicked in my belly.

What was he trying to tell me?

I brought the birdcages to the windows.

I opened the windows, and opened the birdcages.

I poured the fish down the drain.

I took the dogs and cats downstairs and removed their collars.

I released the insects onto the street.

And the reptiles.

And the mice.

I told them, Go.

All of you.


And they went.

And they didn’t come back.


From ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, published by Penguin.