“Extremely loud & incredibly close”

by Jonathan Safran Foer







Jonathan Safran Foer, a young talented New Yorker author tells in “Extremely loud & incredibly close” the story of the extraordinary nine year old Oskar Schell, who lives with his mother and her new boyfriend in a flat in Manhattan.


What is so special about Oskar is his ability to invent all kinds off stuff, his incredible imagination and his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He describes himself as an inventor, pacifist, atheist, scientist and adventurer and, besides, speaks French with passion, plays the tambourine and designs and creates jewellery. At first he seems to be a very happy young man, but the truth is that he is incredibly sad and very unhappy. He misses his father, Thomas Schell, who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. 

A year after this tragedy Oskar discovers a mysterious key in an envelope in his father’s clothes closet upon which is inscribed the word “Black”. He supposes now that this is a clue to a riddle. Because before Oskar`s father died, he sometimes played the game “Reconnaissance Expedition“ with his son on Sundays. The father gave Oskar a task and some clues and he had to find a solution. But the last riddle never ended, the father died before Oskar could solve it.

Oskar’s Mission now is to find a lock that fits to the key. So he decides to visit every person in New York with the last name of Black and asks them if they know anything about the key or his father. So Oskar’s New York odyssey begins, he meets several Blacks and asks them about his key and his father, but at the beginning no one seems to know anything. This depresses him and after eight months of search he decides to give up. But then a woman calls and tells him that her husband knows something about the key. William Black is indeed the owner of the key but he has nothing to do with Oskar’s father.

Mr. Black’s father left the envelope with the key in a small blue vase behind for his son. His son didn’t know anything about that key. So after Mr. Black Senior had died, his son sold everything that belonged to his father. The blue vase was bought by Thomas Schell, Oskar’s father, for his wife. After the sale Mr. Black Junior discovered a letter from his father. He had written that he had left a key in the blue vase that could open a safe-deposit box at a bank. Mr. Black Junior now began looking for Mr Schell.

Parallel to Oskar’s Story, Foer also tells the life story of Oskar’s grandparents, his father’s parents. In chapters titled, “WHY I’M NOT WHERE YOU ARE” Oskar’s grandfather writes several letters to his son (Thomas Schell).  In these letters he apologizes to his son that he left his mother before Thomas was born and that he had never come back again. In chapters entitled “MY FEELINGS” Oskar`s grandma writes letters to Oskar and tells him her life story.

The chapters written by the grandparents are very impressive. Both are survivors of the fire-bombing in Dresden in the Second World War. They tell what they have lost in Dresden, their families and their friends. Oskar’s grandfather has lost the love of his life in this tragic event; it was the sister of Oskar`s grandmother. They also speak about their lives after Dresden, how they found each other and how they continued life together.


“Extremely loud & incredibly close” is a wonderful story about ups and downs in life, about how several persons handle horrible occurrences, about losing something or someone that you love and about coming to terms with this loss.