I spent much of the last few days reading papers my students wrote about the Hungarian-American writer Lawrence Dorr, a bear of a man whom I've known for years. The students read four stories from A Bearer of Divine Revelation, and then examined how faith was embedded in the work.
Lawrence Dorr, as a young man, survived the Holocaust, with a brutal twist that most Western readers don't know much of. When Hungary was freed from Nazi oppression, its liberators were but another horrifying curse. Russian soldiers were nothing like the Canadians who liberated Holland, or the GIs who swept the Germans out of France. Russian "liberation" was often simply another terrifying brand of savagery. Years ago, he once told me that writing out the horrors, fashioning them into short fiction, freed him from nightmares.
Instinctively, almost, we'd rather not read Lawrence Dorr's war stories; some of them are nightmar-ish, and the horrors make me want to avert my eyes. Yet faith is always somewhere on the landscape. It's no panacea. It's not a bromide or a sweet diversion, but it's stubbornly there, like a rising sun.
It's my job to teach certain skills, to get my students to read more closely, to write more clearly, to know some things about form and style and content in literature as art.
But there was more in this set of papers than those kinds of skills. Reading the stories of Lawrence Dorr ushered my students into reality of darkness. On the other hand, they came to know that even war's horror does not eclipse the reality of the Light. For an old prof, reading their papers was a joy, not simply because there were no dangling participles or misplaced modifiers. When I read those papers, I knew where those writers had been, in mind and soul.
I should have assigned him 30 years ago.
This morning after a set of good papers, I'm thankful for Lawrence Dorr, a writer and a believer.
Read an interview with Lawrence Dorr here: http://www.eerdmans.com/Interviews/dorrinterview.htm