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Eva Hoffman

Eva Hoffman with her hapents, photo thanks to www.eilatgordinlevitan.com

Eva Hoffman

Lost in Translation

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Excerpts from Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, 1989

It is April 1959, I’m standing at the railing of the Batory’s upper deck, and I feel that my life is ending. I’m looking out at the crowd that has gathered on the shore to see the ship’s departure from Gdynia – a crowd that, all of a sudden, is irrevocably on the other side – and I want to break out, run back, run toward the familiar excitement, the waving hands, the exclamations. We can’t be leaving all this behind – but we are. I am thirteen years old, and we are emigrating. It’s a notion of such crushing, definitive finality that to me it might as well mean the end of the world. … I’m filled to the brim with what I’m about to lose – images of Cracow, which I loved as one loves a person, … of conversations and escapades with friends. Looking ahead, I come across an enormous, cold blankness – a darkening, an erasure, of the imagination, as if a camera eye has snapped shut, or as if a heavy curtain has been pulled over the future. …

Many years later, at a stylish party in New York, I met a woman who told me that she had had an enchanted childhood. Her father was a highly positioned diplomat in an Asian country, and she had lived surrounded by sumptuous elegance, the courtesy of servants, and the delicate advances of older men. No wonder, she said, that when this part of her life came to an end, at age thirteen, she felt she had been exiled from paradise, and had been searching for it ever since.

No wonder. But the wonder is what you can make a paradise out of. I told her that I grew up in a lumpen apartment in Cracow, squeezed into three rudimentary rooms with four other people, surrounded by squabbles, dark political rumblings, memories of wartime suffering, and daily struggle for existence. And yet, when it came time to leave, I, too, felt I was being pushed out of the happy, safe enclosures of Eden.

Excerpts from Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, 1989

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Eva Hoffman

Eva Hoffman née Wydra (1 July 1945, Kraków –) writer, journalist, and author of a highly esteemed bestseller, Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (1989), “the first postmodernist autobiography written in English by an émigré from a European Communist Country” (Katarzyna Marciniak). Her works: Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews (1997), and After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Holocaust  (2004) are significant contributions to the Holocaust studies and the Polish-Jewish dialog. Having graduated from high school in Kraków, she emigrated with her family to Canada in 1959. She received a Ph.D. in literature from Harvard University and was a professor of literature at many universities in the US and Great Britain. In the years 1979-1990 she was one of the editors of the New York Times. She received many prestigious awards and scholarships, e.g. the Guggenheim Fellowship for General Nonfiction and the Whiting Writers’ Award.

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