FOR LILIANE ATLAN (1932-2012), visionary French writer of plays, poetry, and prose, the creative quest was to “find a language to say the unsayable. . . to [find a way] to integrate within our conscience, without dying in the attempt, the shattering experience of Auschwitz.” Having spent the war years as a child in hiding in Auvergne and Lyon, she then studied at the groundbreaking Gilbert Bloch school where she was immersed in Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah, alongside science and contemporary literature. She emerged into a genre-defying writer, a feminist, and a political activist in both France and Israel. Atlan defies easy categorization: she’s “a “Jewish writer,” “a Holocaust writer,” an originator of l’écriture féminine, and a pioneering theatre artist, one of the first (in the early 1980s) to experiment with video, sound, and spatial technology. Her poetry and prose comprise a large, important part of her oeuvre — the texts in Small Bibles for Bad Times are published here in English for the first time, translated by Marguerite Feitlowitz. In poems and prose, dramatic elements abound: scenes and vignettes; scoring for voices; desires, plots and characters engaged in mortal conflict, sometimes within a single mind. Especially in the poems, much depends on cadence, breath, and beat. Ritual is interrogated even as it is performed; conventional wisdoms are discarded, mocked and mutilated; study is sacred, belief suspect — genuine lessons exist to be learned the hard way. The mundane and cosmic, devotional and defiant, lyric and political jostle, subvert, and re-create each other. From murderous history, Atlan wrested a body of work that is radiant with life.