A German priest and professor of theology for 20 years, Hell was dismissed from his parish and university posts in 1973. It's easy to see why. This controversial and lyrically melancholy scholar-priest meditates on very hallowed ground, punctures his church's image and sacred beliefs (or calcified attitudes), and then re-embraces the shell and points to the one transubstantial pearl left within. A dazed old farmer asks him, ""What happens, or doesn't happen, after death?"" Hell reviews the death-beliefs of known cultures from Stone Age to Now (including spiritualism and parapsychology, which he dismisses), finds himself pinned by a fatalism about all beliefs, including his own. However, for him, Transubstantiation works and during communion--occasionally--his chains drop away as the World Spirit comes into focus in a consecrated wafer. Sometimes there is the bliss of knowing. Holl's amused self-mockery produces a high-quality prose in which every paragraph is warm and rich but much the same, each page purposefully self-destructing.