Though Nathan Englander may identify himself as an “apostate,” one of this 42-year-old author’s greatest talents is his ability to capture the spectrum of Jewish experience. In this year’s story collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” Englander channeled voices of Israeli settlers, Jewish children and senior citizens, and, in the terrific title story, the voices of two Jewish couples — one Orthodox, one not.
Writing in these pages, Forward managing editor Dan Friedman remarked that the best stories in this collection, which won the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, “combine superb prose draftsmanship with an ability to draw out a single element to its absurd, sometimes tragic, conclusion.”
This year also saw the publication of the “New American Haggadah,” edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and translated by Englander. Forward columnist Philologos praised Englander’s translation as “clear and simple, with none of the pomposity that too many translations of traditional Jewish texts fall into in an attempt to be uplifting.” This fall also marks the debut of Englander the playwright. He has adapted “The Twenty-Seventh Man,” a story from his 1999 debut collection “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” for the Public Theater in New York.
Englander has frequently said that, when his second book, the novel “The Ministry of Special Cases,” was published nine years after his debut, he was relieved to finally become an author of “books” rather than just a “book.” Soon, Englander will be able to say he is also a writer of “plays.” Lincoln Center has commissioned him to adapt the title story in “What We Talk About…” for the stage.