Shalom Auslander’s trick as a humorist is to take indisputable truisms and dispute them, claiming they mean the opposite of what we thought they did. Solomon Kugel, the self-loathing hero of Auslander’s debut novel, Hope: A Tragedy (see?), regularly consults with a shrink who argues that Eden was Hell and Hitler was an optimist. (“Pessimists don’t build gas chambers,” Kugel is told.) Auslander carpet-bombs the book with provocations, none more unsettling than the idea that Anne Frank can be a subject for satire. Kugel’s discovery of an elderly, decrepit Frank living in the attic of his home leads into a brutally comic study of how unshakable the Holocaust is for even the most secular Jew. If you see nothing funny about cracking wise about this stuff, look elsewhere, but Hope: A Tragedy is free of cheap shots, and ultimately it’s a humane novel about how much we lean on the past to reckon with the present. Auslander discusses and signs his book at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. politics-prose.com. (202) 364-1919.