In 1959 13-year-old Eva Hoffman left her home in Poland for a new life in America. This memoir evokes with deep feeling the sense of exile created by this disruption, something which has been the experience of tens of thousands of people this century.
Her autobiography is profoundly personal but also tells one of the most universal and important narratives of twentieth-century history: the story of Jewish postwar experience and the tragedies and discoveries born of cultural displacement.
Reviewed by Sue Gee in Slightly Foxed Issue 55.
In Search of Home
Eva Hoffman was born in 1945, the child of secular Jewish parents who had survived the Holocaust by hiding in a bunker deep in the Ukrainian forest. Clever and musical, she grew up in postwar Communist Poland: the era of Stalin; of collectivization; of Radio Free Europe listened to behind locked doors. She lived in ‘a lumpen apartment . . . squeezed into three rudimentary rooms’ with her parents, her little sister Alinka and the maid, surrounded by squabbles, dark political rumblings, memories of wartime suffering and the daily struggle for existence. ‘And yet, when it came time to leave, I felt I was being pushed out of the happy, safe enclosures of Eden.’
In 1957, the ban on emigration from Poland was lifted for Jews. Two years later the family set sail, not for Israel, where many of their friends chose to go, including the family of Eva’s childhood sweetheart Marek, but for Vancouver. From here an old friend of her father’s wrote to say he would sponsor them as immigrants to ‘the land of opportunity, the place where you can grow rich and be happy. For my father, this is an irresistibly alluring vision – to become a man of means in the American way, a man of substance.’ For his daughter, the move represented a profound dislocation of the spirit . . .
‘An exquisite feast’ Literary Review
In Search of Home
Lost in Translation (1989) could not be more specific to time and place – lost and longed-for postwar Cracow, ‘a city of shimmering light and shadow’, of ‘narrow byways . . . echoing...Read more