It has taken years for award-winning author John J. McLaughlin, 37, to grow into being a storyteller, a calling he practices “in the service of the poor.” Having the “gift of languages,” McLaughlin said in a phone interview from his Seattle home, means being a “cultural translator,” someone who is able to explain the depth and context of people’s lives.
In that sense, McLaughlin is a distinctly Catholic writer. His rich use of imaginative detail is incarnational, grounding his characters in specificity and reality. More broadly, he values the importance the Catholic tradition places “on symbol, ritual, and story, to learn to see the world in terms of both metaphor and narrative.”
DIARY OF A WITNESS, 1940-1943
By Raymond-Raoul Lambert
Translated by Isabel Best
Ivan R. Dee
288 pages $27.50
To understand a period as complex as World War II and the Holocaust we need to read both trained historians and ordinary men and women. Historians provide a broad overview and an understanding of context but it is only individuals who can communicate the intimate details of what it is like to endure the suffering of mind, body and soul that is the reality of war.
Personal narratives can elicit the empathy and identification that move the reader to compassion and insight. The two books under consideration, while not among the central Holocaust narratives, are important in fleshing out our knowledge of those terrible years.