Nathan Englander's “The Gilgul of Park Avenue”

Resource Kit by
David Harris-Gershon

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

Nathan Englander’s “The Gilgul of Park Avenue” appeared in his debut collection of short stories, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published in 1999. This collection of stories, filled with a diverse cast of Jewish characters, signaled Englander’s arrival in the literary world as a master storyteller and in the American Jewish world as a singular voice capable, perhaps, of taking the baton from the likes of Bernard Malamud and Cynthia Ozick. His third book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012. 

This story, in which a non-Jewish Manhattanite suddenly has the bizarre epiphany that he is Jewish, raises many questions about personal identity, the fragility of relationships during moments of transition, and the ineffable mystery of the soul. 

This kit offers resources meant to a) provide background on some of the Jewish concepts embedded in the story, and b) spark questions and points of discussion about Englander’s piece.

Cover image: This untitled illustration by Turkish artist Gürbüz D. Eksioglu appeared alongside Nathan Englander’s story "The Gilgul of Park Avenue," when it was first published in The Atlantic in 1999.