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Tree of Codes [Paperback]

Jonathan Safran Foer
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Nov 2010
Tree of Codes, is a haunting new story by best-selling American writer, Jonathan Safran Foer. With a different die-cut on every page, Tree of Codes explores previously unchartered literary territory. Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a first - as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling. Inspired to exhume a new story from an existing text, Jonathan Safran Foer has taken his favourite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story told in Safran Foer's own acclaimed voice. Tree of Codes is the story of 'an enormous last day of life'. As one character's life is chased to extinction, Safran Foer multi-layers the story with immense, anxious, at times disorientating imagery, crossing both a sense of time and place, making the story of one person's last day everyone's story. The book has a broad appeal: to both literary audiences, intrigued by Safran Foer's new way of writing and to design and art audiences who will revel in the book's remarkable and unique visual experience.

Product details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Visual Editions Ltd; First Edition edition (13 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956569218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956569219
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 315,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestseller Everything Is Illuminated, named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the winner of numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. Foer was one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year" and Esquire's "Best and Brightest." Foreign rights to his new novel have already been sold in ten countries. The film of Everything Is Illuminated, directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood, will be released in August 2005. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been optioned for film by Scott Rudin Productions in conjunction with Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures. Foer lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Description


"[A]n extraordinary journey that activates the layers of time and space involved in the handling of a book and its heap of words. Jonathan Safran Foer deftly deploys sculptural means to craft a truly compelling story. In our world of screens, he welds narrative, materiality, and our reading experience into a book that remembers it actually has a body." -- Olafur Eliasson, artist

About the Author

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a work of non-fiction, Eating Animals. His books have won numerous awards, and been translated into 36 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars many ways of reading one book 16 Jun 2011
When I ordered this book all I new was that it was a die-cut of Foer's favourite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. What I couldn't imagine was what that actually meant.
So when I finally held the book in my hands I was overwhelmed. This is probably the coolest I've ever seen. The book's pages have holes. Every page contains text and lots of empty space. The cut out pieces allow you to see the writing on the next pages. So you can read many layers at once.
For this alone it was worth buying the book, but it didn't tell me how to read the story. I kept opening it and looking at it a little clueless for some time and one day I just started reading. I've read it from page to page the first time. Reading everything. This way I read a lot of similar pages, with just minor changes to the sentences and the content. I cannot say I discovered a real story. However, sometimes among reading the same string of senseless words and letters a wonderful and powerful sentence would appear. That was just so beautiful that it stood out from all the rest.
For this first reading I decided that was it's purpose. As a reader I could see the wonderful language so much better than when it was hidden in a compelling story that was also well written all the way through.
The second time I read the book I decided to cover all the information from the pages under the ones I was reading. This way I found a story. It was a nice but colorless story. I just had the feeling it was missing something, the language was blunt and direct, less beautiful, but a content was visible.
In the third reading I read two pages as one and that way I couldn't see anything. Neither language nor story were charming. And from there on the book starts to become alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tree of codes - a beautiful piece of art 20 Aug 2012
By MariaAB
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's not much to say, all in all it's a must read, and just a fantastic idea that has turned into a true piece of art. If you like reading but also enjoy visual stimuli, this would be the perfect book. Although the story in itself is a bit short, it fits right into Foer's other writings, and is very beautiful. I am very pleased to have this in my collection.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly Safran Foer's finest yet 24 Nov 2010
I've loved everything Jonathan Safran Foer has written to date, but this just might be his most amazing work yet. What he has done by cutting his own haunting story out of Bruno Schulz' equally haunting Street of Crocodiles, is both astonishing and incredibly poignant. The book, with its ghostly die cuts and dangling phantom punctuation, is a different kind of reading experience, for sure, but as with his other books, I devoured it in one breathless sitting.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype 6 May 2011
Tree of Codes is described as "a sculptural object" exploring "previously uncharted literary territory". It isn't and it doesn't. The idea of erasure has been used by other writers, most notably by the artist Tom Phillips in his 1970 'Humument', a glorious jewel of a book where the pages of a Victorian novel, 'The Human Document', are drawn upon and overpainted leaving only certain words visible, so creating an entirely new text. Foer achieves a similar result by die-cutting the pages and physically removing words from Bruno Schulz's wonderful 'Street of Crocodiles'. The effect of this may be novel (no pun intended), but it is far from satisfying. The pages are rendered so flimsy by the cutting process that the physical act of reading the book is made onerous. But the issue of usability is not its major flaw. There are several contemporary artists currently creating what is termed book sculpture. By cutting through pages they disclose what lies beneath, creating strange dioramas and oddly juxtaposed typography. This layering of text is what I had expected from Tree of Codes, but instead the cut-through pages merely serve to reveal half words and gibberish. The die-cutting is nothing more than a gimmick. The same result could have been achieved far more easily (and inexpensively) by using the method of redaction favoured by governments and Intelligence Agencies around the world - a black marker. The book is an interesting exercise, but it is by no means the first, or best, of its kind. It is, ultimately, a demonstration of quirkiness and a showcase for the printer's prowess.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On behalf of my daughter.... 8 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my daughter and she loves it.

Personally, I think it's bizarre and it would drive me nuts....

I expect that's why she loves it....
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book for life 30 Mar 2014
By Vivian
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is so powerful, yet so delicate. This is the work of a young archaeologist that finds an important vase, cleanses it, and gives it to us. This is a piece of history and the mirror, not the reality, the mirror of what could have been. You have to buy this book. You have to enjoy the chance of feeling alive and cultivate your freedom.
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