Daniel Stein, Interpreter, A Novel in Documents
New York and London, 2011
Hardback, $27.95 ISBN-13: US 978-1-59020-320-0
Hardback, £16.99 ISBN-13: UK 978-0-7156-4163-7
Hardback, Can $35.00
Winner of the Russian National Literary Prize, 2007
Winner of the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, France, 2011
“A fascinating work... Achieves the height of virtuosity”
“A feat of love and tolerance”
“... masterfully translated by Arch Tait, 'Daniel Stein,
Interpreter' is a riveting read of literary historical fiction, a
grade-A pick for any library collection.”
Midwest Book Review
“Daniel Stein, Interpreter” is already seen by many as the
great Russian novel of our time. Ludmila Ulitskaya has earned
accolades abroad for this groundbreaking work, at last available in
The novel tells the story of Daniel Stein, a Polish Jew who narrowly
survives the Holocaust by working for the Gestapo as an interpreter.
After the war, he converts to Catholicism, becomes a priest, enters
the Order of Barefoot Carmelites, and finally emigrates to Israel.
Despite this seemingly impossible progression, the life and destiny
of Daniel Stein are not an invention – the character is based on the
actual life of Oswald Rufeisen, the real Brother Daniel.
This innovative, furious, and funny book, compiled as a series of
documents – letters, diary entries, postcards, and other records –
ranges from before the Second World War to modern times and from the
shtetl to Israel to America. It portrays a life full of amazing
contradictions and undaunted faith. In “Daniel Stein, Interpreter”,
Daniel’s willingness to communicate with everyone, to translate
across linguistic and cultural divides, not only assured his freedom
but stands as a symbol of love, humanity, and tolerance.
From “Daniel Stein, Interpreter”
“I had been saving up what I had to tell him for so many years, and
then between the soup and the bigos I could not find how to begin.
He himself made it clear that he was prepared to listen to me. He
said, ‘You know, Daniel, it is very difficult to turn this great
ship. There is a habit of thinking in a particular manner, both
about Jews and about many other things. You have to change the
direction without capsizing the ship.’
“‘Your ship threw the Jews overboard, that’s the problem,’ I said.
He was sitting almost opposite me, slightly to one side. He has
large hands and the papal signet ring is large, and on his head was
the white papal skullcap, like a yarmulke, and he was listening
attentively. Then I told him everything I had been thinking these
last years, the things which keep me awake at night.”
SONECHKA : A Novella and Stories
Schocken Books/ Random House,
New York, 2005
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Shortlisted for the Rossica Translation Prize, 2007.
"Arch Tait's English
translation faithfully captures Ulitskaya’s carefully
constructed colloquial style"
"From one of the most important living
Russian writers comes a collection of storytelling miracles. The
Russian women in Ludmila Ulitskaya's stories are unlike any
you have met before. They are charming, intelligent, seductive, and
strong enough to carry an entire dysfunctional country on their
Author of The Russian
In these stories, love and life
are lived under the radar of oppression, in want of material
comfort, in obeisance to or matter-of-fact rejection of the
pervasive restrictions of Soviet rule. If living well is the best
revenge, then Ludmila Ulitskaya's characters, in choosing to
embrace the unique gifts that their lives bring them, are small
heroes of the quotidian, their stories as funny and tender as they
are brilliantly told.
In "Queen of Spades", Anna, a
successful ophthalmological surgeon in her sixties; her daughter,
Katya; and Katya's teenage daughter and young son live in constant
terror of Anna's mother, a domineering, autocratic, aging former
beauty queen. In "Angel", a closeted middle-aged professor marries
an uneducated charwoman for love of her young son, raising the child
in his image. In "The Orlov-Sokolovs", perfectly matched young
lovers are pulled apart by the Soviet academic bureaucracy. And in
the stunning novella "Sonechka", the heroine, a bookworm turned muse
turned mother, reveals a love and loyalty at once astounding in its
generosity and grotesque in its pathos.
was reprinted in
The New Yorker,
18 April 2005,
"One of her most recent protectors, who materialised after she had
been sent to a particularly monstrous skills training centre for
orphans and devised an ingenious plan of escape, was a fat
forty-year-old Tatar called Rafil, a railway carriage steward who
conveyed her all the way to the Kazan station in the city of Moscow,
chosen as the starting point for her meteoric rise. In the side
pocket of a checkered shopping bag she had a passport, made out in
her name a short time previously, which she had stolen from the
principal's study, and a very modest twenty-three pre-reform rubles
pinched from the somnolent Rafil as the train was approaching
Orenburg. She had no problem with this stolen money for two good
reasons: first, she really had peeled off very little from a very
thick wad; and second, she felt she had earned every kopek of it in
her four days on the train.
Rafil did not notice the theft and was keenly disappointed when,
twenty-four hours later, his young protegee failed to return to
carriage number seven to make the return journey to Kazakhstan with
him as she had promised."
MEDEA AND HER CHILDREN
Schocken Books/Random House
New York, 2004
Ulitskaya was awarded the
Booker Russian Novel Prize in 2001.
In this novel, Medea Sinoply Mendez is an iconic figure in her
Crimean village, the last remaining pureblooded Greek in a family
that has lived on that coast for centuries. Looking like "a portrait
Goya had omitted to paint" in the widow's black she has worn since
the death of her husband - a jolly Jewish dentist - many years
before, the childless Medea is the touchstone of a large family of
nieces and nephews who, together with their spouses, children, and
friends, gather each spring and summer at her home.
Ageless and unflappable, Medea greets each successive wave of
visitors with calm warmth and welcome and wryly observes their
romantic entanglements, disappointments, conflicts, and passions.
Ludmila Ulitskaya, one of contemporary Russia's great
novelists, weaves the story of the sprawling Sinoply family into a
brilliantly detailed and richly textured tapestry.
An extract. Medea's grand-niece, Masha, is having an affair:
If before she had been no stranger to insomnia, in these months
Masha slept a ragged and fitful sleep full of sounds, lines of verse
and disturbing images. Unreal animals came to her in her dreams,
animals with many legs, many eyes, half-birds, half-cats, with
symbolic allusions. One, fearfully familiar, rubbed up against her,
and its name was also familiar to her. It consisted of a series of
numbers and letters. When she woke she remembered its strange name:
Zh4836. She burst out laughing. It was the number printed in thick
black ink on the linen ribbon she sewed to the bed sheets before
sending them to the laundry.
All this nonsense was imbued with significance. One time she dreamed
a completely finished poem which she wrote down while half asleep.
She was amazed when she read it the following morning. "It isn't
mine, it isn't mine. I could never have written this myself."
“ Through lust to love and
into the abyss
of destinations reached past our contriving:
I give the words that tell of you and this,
I serve as target too of all your striving;
and in the brooding darkness of our blood
the instant blazes like a blunderbuss,
and all is swept away as in a flood
and leaves no brim between the one of us.”