cover image Daniel Stein, Interpreter

Daniel Stein, Interpreter

Ludmila Ulitskaya, trans. from the Russian by Arch Tait, Overlook, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-59020-320-0

In her fourth book to be translated into English (for which Tait won the PEN Literature in Translation award), Ulitskaya weaves a dense narrative of the lives touched by Br. Daniel Stein. Ulitskaya's (The Funeral Party) ambitious effort is a kind of case file composed of conversations, lectures, sermons, and excerpts from letters, diaries, and news articles. The story begins in 1942 in Belorussia, where Stein, a clandestine Polish Jew pressed into service by the Germans, secretly helps 300 Jews escape the ghetto. After the war he converts to Catholicism, becomes a priest, and moves to Israel, where he influences the lives of many over a number of years. With warmth and intelligence, Stein addresses life's great challenges and the complexities of faith, though not everyone is pleased with his unorthodox views. Ulitskaya's story of one man's devotion to bridging the divide between Christianity and Judaism in the Holy Land raises complex theological, moral, and emotional questions. Sympathetic characters (many drawn from real life) and a layered structure allows the tension of these myriad lives to emerge naturally. (Apr.)