Eva Hoffman: ‘somewhere between tongue and mind’

June 21, 2012

I mentioned Eva Hoffman’s book Lost in Translation here in April when it featured in a bookmash, Forest of Symbols. John Cowan, in a comment, said it was wonderful, which prompted me to bump it up the unread pile. I can now agree wholeheartedly with John, and am grateful for the prod – it’s the best book I’ve read in months.

Hoffman was a child when she and her family fled Poland for Canada, and later the U.S.; her book, subtitled Life in a New Language, is a memoir of this migration in three parts: Paradise, Exile, and The New World. In it she writes with grace and deep insight about her happy youth in Poland, her alienation across the Atlantic, and her gradual psychological and cultural integration into an English-speaking world.

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Bookmash: Forest of symbols

April 24, 2012
[click to enlarge]

Forest of symbols

The forest of symbols,
The eye beguiled:
Tree of smoke
Through the language glass,
Everything you know
Lost in translation.


With thanks to the authors: Victor Turner, Bruno Ernst, Denis Johnson, Guy Deutscher, Zoë Heller, and Eva Hoffman; and to Nina Katchadourian, whose Sorted Books project was my original inspiration for this.

More of these, and links to other people’s, in the bookmash archive. Cross-posted on Tumblr.


Lafcadio De La Foret writes: “If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live with aphasia, I’ve found the words that explain it best to me. And it’s compiled by just stacking six books.”