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Nathan Englander examines identity
Every journalist's nightmare is the interview with the subject who responds to questions with one-sentence (or even one-word) answers. Fortunately, the writer Nathan Englander — who was in Chicago recently as the inaugural Crown Speaker Series lecturer at Northwestern University's Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies — is apparently incapable of brevity. Ask him a question and he's off to the races, speaking quickly and comprehensively, each answer a complete essay in itself. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Englander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Nassau County, and later lived for a time in Jerusalem. His Jewish background provides the setting for virtually all of his fiction, including the short-story collection "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" (1999), the novel "The Ministry of Special Cases" (2007) and a second collection, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," published this year. His play, "The Twenty-Seventh Man" — an adaptation of his own story about a group of Jewish writers imprisoned in Stalinist Russia — opened last month at the Public Theater in New York. Englander's translations have been published in "New American Haggadah" (2012), edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, and "Suddenly a Knock on the Door," a collection of short stories by Israeli writer Etgar Keret.
By Kevin Nance
December 7, 2012