Identify the following short story or novel.

I read the book in the 1990s in the German language. Very likely the book was published one or more decades earlier, a typical softcover Heyne or Bastei-Lübbe sci-fi anthology or novel. Unfortunately, thousands of these publications exist, so this does not help much in narrowing things down. It stands to reason the original story was written by a mainstream, prolific author even earlier, and that I read a translation.

I remember almost nothing about the subgenre or plot. Setting is a simulacrum of Christian Hell, inhabited mostly by humans and a few other fantastic creatures, as corporeal beings living in a functioning society in an eternal afterlife. People use Hebrew as lingua franca, newcomers learn the language.

The protagonist is an office worker or bureaucrat. In Hell, paper cannot be produced, so people write on parchment. The non-human creatures are sentient but are prohibited from speaking to humans by a curse. A Jesus doppelgänger wearing opaque sunglasses is mentioned. At the end of the story, the geology of Hell is upheaved.

1 Answer 1


The only famous science fiction or fantasy works set in a real or virtual Christian Hell that I can think of (at least the only ones since Dante's Inferno or Milton's Paradise Lost) is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno (1976) and its sequel Escape From Hell (2009).

However, I haven't read either so I don't know how much they might possibly resemble the story your remember. But I thought I should mention it in case it happens to be what you are looking for.


By the way, since another Niven and Pournelle novel was Lucifer's Hammer (1977), and since "slammer" is a slang term for jail or prison, I always thought that Inferno should have been titled Lucifer's Slammer.

  • Truthfully, this feels like it ought to have been a comment.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 23, 2021 at 17:02
  • 3
    Inferno by Niven and Pournelle isn't even close to the description in the question. Jesus with opaque sunglasses? The only bureaucracy I recall involved Himmuralabima's Bay. The "alien" creatures were perfectly capable of speaking to the inmates. And Carpentier eventually concluded that he was in the real, Christian Hell.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Feb 23, 2021 at 17:03

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