Sidransky, A. J. “The Interpreter”, Black Opal Books, 2020.
Love and Loss
War is raging around Manila and Kurt Berlin, a 23-year-old American GI, is recruited by the OSS to return to Europe to help with the investigation and interrogation of captured Nazis. Berlin been a refugee from the Nazis himself and now as he is working with them. He understands that the Nazi he’s interpreting is responsible for what he went through during his own escape. He also realizes that this same Nazi probably knows something that could help him to find the girl he left behind. Of course, Berlin think about revenge. Berlin is taken on a journey through the terror of pre-war Vienna and occupied Brussels and he clearly remembers his escape with his family through Nazi-Occupied France and the destruction of post-war Europe. It is only natural for him to think about how much of this he will able to take.
This is the first book in writer A. J. Sidransky’s three volume “Justice” series. Here he takes us back to 1939 when Berlin was a teen refugee running from the Nazis and then to his coming to America and his later becoming an attorney and covert CIA agent. With an introduction like that, it is easy to see how this novel pulls you on the very first page. In fact, I was so much into what I was reading that I finished in one sitting.
Those of us who know survivors of the Nazi regime understand how tense a book like this can be. A. J. Sidransky combines tension and fine writing to bring us a novel that keeps us turning pages as quickly as possible. We quickly see the link between Nazi Europe and the beginning of the Cold War. Sidransky brings together the wish for revenge and the story of love and loss. Humanity that had been destroyed by World War II had to be rebuilt as well as faith in fellow man. Sidransky does this through the character of Kurt Berlin.
I find that as a Jew, a read like this is extremely emotional and as I read, I attempted to feel what Berlin felt. He is such a finely built character (yet with a bit of aura of mystery), that he is both enigmatic and extremely human. What we read is often disturbing and unforgettable but then we cannot allow ourselves to forget the most horrible period of human history. I have spoken with many survivors but was never able to identify with them as I did with Berlin’s conflicting emotions. It is so hard to pretend to be someone you are not and I cannot imagine how awful it must be to know you can be captured at any moment.
We have all thought that there must have been some dirty dealings going on behind the scenes and the way they are pictured here is illuminating. I read this with both a sense of fear and a sense of pride. It is both original and historical, frightening and life affirming. Above all it is unforgettable. Developing a great plot with glorious and descriptive prose, Sidransky sets the standard high for all other books about the period.