Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language

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Overview

The late poet and memoirist Czeslaw Milosz wrote, “I am enchanted. This book is graceful and profound.”

Since its publication in 1989, many other readers across the world have been enchanted by Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, a classic of exile as well as immigrant literature, as well as a girl’s coming-of-age memoir. Lost in Translation moves from Hoffman's childhood in Cracow, Poland to her adolescence in Vancouver, British ...
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Overview

The late poet and memoirist Czeslaw Milosz wrote, “I am enchanted. This book is graceful and profound.”

Since its publication in 1989, many other readers across the world have been enchanted by Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, a classic of exile as well as immigrant literature, as well as a girl’s coming-of-age memoir. Lost in Translation moves from Hoffman's childhood in Cracow, Poland to her adolescence in Vancouver, British Columbia to her university years in Texas and Massachusetts to New York City, where she becomes a writer and an editor at the New York Times Book Review. Its multi-layered narrative encompasses many themes: the defining power of language; the costs and benefits of changing cultures, the construction of personal identity, and the profound consequences, for a generation of post-war Jews like Hoffman, of Nazism and Communism.

Lost in Translation is, as Publisher's Weekly wrote, “a penetrating, lyrical memoir that casts a wide net,” challenges its reader to reconsider their own language, autobiography, cultures, and childhoods.

Hoffman’s subsequent books of literary non-fiction include Exit into History, Shtetl, After Such Knowledge, Time and two novels, The Secret and Appassionata.

Lost in Translation is one of a series of memoirs by women from Central Europe published by Plunkett Lake Press as eBooks that includes Heda Margolius Kovaly’s Under A Cruel Star and Helen Epstein’s Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for her Mother’s History.

This remarkable book is Eva Hoffman's personal story of her experiences as an emigre who loses and remakes her identity in a new land and translates her sense of self into a new culture and a different language.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Daughter of Holocaust survivors, the author, a New York Times Book Review editor, lost her sense of place and belonging when she emigrated with her family from Poland to Vancouver in 1959 at the age of 13. Although she works within a familiar genre here, Hoffman's is a penetrating, lyrical memoir that casts a wide net as it joins vivid anecdotes and vigorous philosophical insights on Old World Cracow and Ivy League America; Polish anti-Semitism; the degradations suffered by immigrants; Hoffman's cultural nostalgia, self-analysis and intellectual passion; and the atrophy of her Polish from disuse and her own disabling inarticulateness in English as a newcomer. Linguistic dispossession, she explains, ``is close to the dispossession of one's self.'' As Hoffman savors the cadences and nuances of her adopted language, she remains ever conscious of assimilation's perils: ``But how does one bend toward another culture without falling over, how does one strike an elastic balance between rigidity and self-effacement?'' (Jan.)
Library Journal
Born in Poland shortly after World War II, Hoffman emigrated to Canada with her parents in 1959. Gifted both as a writer and a musician, Hoffman succeeded enough in her ``second'' culture to win scholarships to Rice and Harvard and to become a published author in her adopted language and a New York Times editor. But, as this perceptive and moving memoir demonstrates, no matter how successful the adaptation to a new culture, the immigrant experiences loss as well as gain. Hoffman makes one feel intensely the pain of an abrupt rupture with one's culture and native language, as well as the difficulties of adjusting to a new idiom. Recommended for public and college libraries. Ann. H. Sullivan, Tompkins Cortland Community Coll . , Dryden, N.Y.
John Leonard
"As a childhood memoir, Lost in Translation has the colors and nuance of Nabokov's Speak, Memory. As an account of a young mind wandering into great books, it recalls Sartre's Words. … As an anthropology of Eastern European émigré life, American academe and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it's every bit as deep and wicked as anything by Cynthia Ozick. … A brilliant, polyphonic book that is itself an act of faith, a Bach Fugue."
Jonathan Yardley
"Handsomely written and judiciously reflective, it is testimony to the human capacity not merely to adapt but to reinvent: to find new lives for ourselves without forfeiting the dignity and meaning of our old ones."
Pater Conrad
"Nothing, after all, has been lost; poetry this time has been made in and by translation."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525246015
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/15/1989
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 20.00 (w) x 20.00 (h) x 20.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eva Hoffman grew up in Cracow, Poland, where she studied piano at the Cracow School of Music, before emigrating in her teens to Canada and then the United States.

After receiving her Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University, she worked as senior editor at the New York Times, serving for a while as one of its main literary critics. She has taught literature and creative writing at various universities, and has written and lectured internationally on issues of exile, memory, Polish-Jewish history, politics and culture.

Her books include Lost in Translation, After Such Knowledge and Time, as well as two novels, The Secret, and Appassionata. She has presented radio programmes and curated a series on "Writing and Music" at the South Bank Centre in London. She is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kosciuszko Foundation award for Shtetl, and the Prix Italia for radio. She now lives in London.
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Customer Reviews

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