A modern-day hunting fable--and US debut for German novelist and journalist Stern--details the degrees of engagement leading to a final confrontation between a long-suffering giant bear and a master of the universe who's busily arranging post-Soviet jump- starts in Eastern Europe economies for the World Bank. As the first step in an inexorable convergence of destinies, the bear reenters the territory from which it had been driven years before, urged on by a desire to revisit its place of origin. Unlike others of its kind that have become accustomed to receiving food from keepers, and that have thereby been set up as easy kills in government-regulated ``hunts,'' the bear, wary of human contact, is deemed an unacceptable threat to the well-ordered system of big- game management. In Germany, meanwhile, the powerful banker Joop is lonely and restless at the top of his profession, and daydreams increasingly about hunting and a former wife--his last real contacts with the pleasure of life; when word comes from a former guide that he could add a bear to his list of trophies, he makes the most of the opportunity. As the guide succeeds in taming the beast, Joop arrives in the country with an economic stimulus package in hand, but he finds himself more repulsed than exhilarated by the prospect of the hunt, as latent environmental sympathies come to the fore and he identifies with his prey. In the end, he does his masculine duty, but the experience leaves him a changed man. A well-crafted allegory exposing the grimness of real-world economics--as well as a vivid tale, with life in the animal kingdom having far more vitality than the dull, narrow realm of human experience.