The Island: Three Tales

Ronald Stroan, Translator, Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Author Learning Links $30 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0795-6
Three remarkable short works testify to the rare sensibility and vision of Herling ( A World Apart ), a Polish writer now living in Italy. In each, religious dramas are played out against Italian scenery in slowly shifting historical landscapes. The title novella takes place on an island near Naples, opening with the unconscionable behavior of the local monks during a 17th-century plague, and then moving to encompass the years from 1933 to 1950. ``The Tower,'' perhaps the most interesting piece, centers around a book containing an account of an 18th-century leper and frames the leper's tale with an attempt to reconstruct the story of the man who owned--and cherished--the book before his death in the final years of WW II. ``The Second Coming: A Medieval Tale'' tells of a plague-ridden community's thirst for miracles during the reign of Pope Urban IV. Herling's protagonists grapple with profound religious suffering, and their pain is conveyed minutely and, simultaneously, with distance. His prose has the measured cadences and his narrative the spiritual passion of 18th- or 19th-century novels; to call his fiction old-fashioned, however, would miss the point: it may be timeless. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 05/01/1997
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