Eva Hoffmann – USA-Canada-Poland

Linked with our presentation of Boycott against civil conduct.

She said (excerpt): … the sense of geographical topsy-turviness was the most concrete expression of displacement. Of course when I was growing up in Poland, I thought that Poland was the very center of the world, as we all do when we grow up in a place. And that the world existed in relation to it. All of a sudden, I was in Vancouver, and Canada, North America, was the center of the world and Poland was on the periphery and very far away. And that of course, corresponded, [was] a kind of objective correlative, the most concrete symbol of the many cultural displacements that went along with it, the many sorts of cultural values that changed as I went from Poland to Canada. Our cultural values, both on the largest and on the smallest scale in the sense of, say, political outlook or world view or the social set-up; too, notions of human intimacy or beauty or the distances at which we stand from each other, etc., etc. … every cultural value sort of did a flip or sort of moved … (Read more on this page of berkeley interview).

Eva Hoffmann – USA-Canada-Poland

“It is only through the efforts of imagination and memory that the shadows can be made to speak,” writes Eva Hoffman. Her memoir, LOST IN TRANSLATION follows her journey from Cold War Poland to Canada, and later, Texas, as she grapples with language, identity, and alienation. In her more recent books, SHETL and AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE, she examines life before and after the Holocaust, and the complexities of remembrance. A former editor for the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, Hoffman currently teaches at MIT. (Read on Films42.com).

Review of ‘After such Knowledge’ (excerpt): … As the Holocaust recedes from us in time, the guardianship of its legacy is being passed on from its survivors and witnesses to the generation after. How should we, in turn, convey its knowledge to others? What are the effects of a traumatic past on its inheritors, and the second generation’s responsibilities to its received memories? In this meditation on the long aftermath of atrocity, Eva Hoffman probes these questions through personal reflections and through broader explorations of the historical, psychological and moral implications of the second-generation experience. She examines the subterranean processes through which private memories of suffering are transmitted, and the more wilful stratagems of collective memory. She traces the second-generation’s trajectory from childhood intimations of horror, through its struggles between allegiance and autonomy, and its complex transactions with children of perpetrators. As she guides us through the poignant juncture at which living memory must be relinquished, she asks what insights can be carried from the past to the newly problematic present, and urges the need to transform potent family stories into a fully-informed understanding … (read more on Joseph’s bookstore).

Review (excerpt): … In her outstanding memoir, Lost in Translation, Hoffman recounts her experiences of growing up in postwar Poland with Holocaust survivor parents; the shock of being wrenched from her comfortable childhood in Cracow to live in Vancouver, aged 13; and her later emigration to the US to study. Arriving in a new country without command of its language resulted in Hoffman “losing” herself. This was compounded when she and her younger sister were given new first names at school: “Our Polish names didn’t refer to us; they were as surely us as our eyes or hands. These new appellations, which we ourselves can’t yet pronounce, are not us . . . they make us strangers to ourselves.” Hoffman’s memoir details her growing comprehension of the interrelatedness of language and culture, and her realisation that one cannot adequately translate a language without its culture … (read the rest on the age.com/au).

Bio: Eva Hoffman grew up in Cracow, Poland, where she began her musical studies. After emigrating to Canada in her teens, she went on to study in the United States and receive her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University. Subsequently, she worked as senior editor and writer on several sections of The New York Times, serving for a while as one of its regular literary critics.

Her first novel, The Secret, was published in 2001;

She is the author of Lost inTranslation: A Life in a New Language;

Exit Into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe;

Shtetl: The History of a Small Town and an Extinguished World;

Her most recent work is After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Legacy of the Holocaust. It is Hoffman’s skillfully rendered rumination on the sixty-year aftermath of the Holocaust and the multifarious implications of the children of Holocaust survivors’ (2 G or Second generation) experience. In this well-wrought explication, which melds the personal with the analytical, she questions the insights that can be carried from recent history to the troublesome present and argues for a transformation of the poignant and harrowing family stories into a conscious understanding of a dark historical era.

(See references about this book reviews on identitytheory.com, also on Uni Michigan.edu, and on Creative Writing Program). See also the Bibliography on KeyWest LiterarySeminar), and her books on amazon, also on tesco, and for articles on the Paper Store Enterprises).

She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Award for Writing. She holds a bi-annual appointment as Visiting Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at MIT.

She tells about herself (excerpt): … I grew up in postwar Poland. I went to Polish schools. I grew up in a Poland in which the Jewish culture had been decimated, although there was a Jewish community in Cracow still. And certainly this was one of the gifts that my parents gave me, that they taught me never to camouflage or hide the fact of my Jewishness and, in fact, to claim it with a sense of pride. So I certainly fully identified as a Jewish person, a secular Jewish person, but fully a Jewish person. In a poor section of Warsaw, called Praga, in 1990. At the same time, I was going to Polish schools. I was being formed by Polish culture. I had Polish friends. I lived in Poland. In a sense, it did not seem so difficult to synthesize the two when I was there. What I sometimes say when people ask me, “Are you Polish or are you Jewish?” is what a great Polish-Jewish interwar poet kept saying, Alexander Wat (who, in fact, lived in California for quite a few years of his life). He was a great interwar poet, writing in Polish; Jewish. And when people kept asking him, “Are you Polish or are you Jewish?” his answer was, “I’m Polish-Polish and Jewish-Jewish.” And, you know, this seemed entirely possible when I was growing up in Poland. It probably would have become a lot more problematized later as the political situation changed and there was an expulsion of Jews in 1968, but it was not so difficult to do. There were many other people in my situation, and I think we rather easily felt ourselves to be Polish and Jewish. To some extent, my parents already did, too, although their sense of Jewishness had much more primacy. For me, they were perhaps about equal. I think the split comes much more in immigration and from a distance … (read all on this page of berkeley interview).







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