Daniel Stein: Interpreter, by Ludmila Ulitskaya, translated by Arch Tait, Scribe Publications, $32.95
This novel is a patchwork of letters, diaries, official notes, reports and recorded speeches that seem to both hide and explore the extraordinary tale of Daniel.
He does emerge in the end, a redemptive, compassionate person with an unshakable resolve to save people from destruction – whether it’s brought upon them by the unimaginable cruelties of the Holocaust, the Soviet occupation or the individual cruelties of everyday lives.
Born a Polish Jew, Stein survived the Germans and the Soviets by becoming an interpreter seemingly serving both, but in reality serving only his own desire to do good. He was baptised a Catholic by nuns who hid him from the Nazis.
He became a Carmelite monk and decided to work for his God in, of all places, Israel, where Christianity began with the Jewish Jesus, his Jewish relatives and first followers. He is an unusual monk for the Catholic Church (even for the Polish Pope) and for the Israelis, who don’t accept him as a Jew and are suspicious of his celebrating mass in Hebrew.
The astonishing story of Brother Daniel is based on the life of Oswald Rufenstein, a Jewish monk, whom the author met in 1992. Her own struggles with the book, recorded in her letters, form part of the novel and allow an unusually intimate glance into the challenges of writing a book of many narratives.
FULL REVIEW: A religious contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction (Globe and Mail)
Lyudmila Ulitskaya (Wikipedia)
The Daily Beast praises DANIEL STEIN, INTERPRETER (The Winged Elephant)
Daniel Stein, Interpreter (RussianWriting.com)