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Customer Review

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What little I understood, I liked ..., 6 Jun. 2008
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This review is from: Lost In Translation: A Life in a New Language (Paperback)
Now, I know something about dislocation. I found my ID card amongst my mother's papers. Filled in seven days after my birth in Aug 1949 with the address of my first home, by the time I was 10 months old, 3 change-of-address sections had been filled in. I was 4 y.o. on the ship going out to Singapore. We had 3 more homes there in the next three years.

When my father was posted back to Europe, we continued this rate of moving. I was sent to boarding school in England as an attempt to mitigate the disturbing business of constantly changing schools. The result was that sometime I came 'home' to find that my parents had moved while I was at away. The 'home' I had left was now 'home' in some quite other place. Sometimes I came back to find that it was my pals from next door or down the street that had moved. Whether I moved or they moved, the result was that friendships were summarily ended without notice, without preamble. I've had 16 homes in London alone. To date, at age 58, I'm in #46 and as I put the key in the front door of this one for the first time, I thought, "Where next?"

So, I had a great deal of anticipation that this book would throw some light on the business of being an exile because, as you will grasp from the above, when someone asks me "Where are you from?" what on earth [pun intended] do I say?

The woman who wrote this book has done a lot of thinking about all this. I believe that, at bottom, her life after moving from Poland - school, university, post-grad, career - has been an conscious exercise in deconstructing her Polish self and replacing it with an American self. She has made this process a way of life in itself and life as she has lived it has been moulded to serve this end.

She has used language to do this. And my word! does she now know the English language. She emerged from academic life with numerous honours and awards. She's a PhD. She became a part of the New York literati. Right at the end of the book she briefly describes her foray into analysis. It all shows. She tells 'the shrink' [I think it's interesting that she tries to make light of putting herself into analysis by only ever referring to 'the shrink'] that she has The American Disease which, amongst other symptoms, includes excessive self-consciousness. She's right. She does have this disease and this book, like the famous Mozart opera that was deemed to have 'too many notes', has too many words, too much convoluted self analysis.

There may be too much of it but all of it is incredibly intense, erudite, cogent, insightful and, as you would expect from such a distinguished woman of letters, delivered by writing of the highest quality.

I found most enjoyment in her descriptions of real life - the life of herself with her family and friends, the element of life where all the cogs and wheels grinding away at the problem of identity actually have to deal with the world out there, with the flesh and blood person standing in front of her. These sections are written with such good humour, affection and grace.

The sections where she deliberates on the finer points of the meanings of the analysis of the thoughts .... very dense, very abstruse, paragraph after paragraph of it.

On p202 she writes, "It's time to roll down the scrim and see the world directly, as the world. I want to re-enter, through whatever Looking Glass will take me there, a state of ordinary reality". Well, one way to do that, Eva, is to stop grinding on about it. But no. She later signs up with 'the shrink'. Out of the frying pan - into the fire. Now she's a real American. Not only is she constantly thinking about who she might be but she's paying someone[and NY shrinks don't come cheap] to listen to her talk about it!

One day I hope to have the patience to read this book again, highlighter pen to hand, to note the really telling sentences or passages which crop up from time to time throughout the long and microscopic self examination described in this book. To me, those few thoughts are enough, worth the effort of reading it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2015 11:40:48 GMT
Kate says:
I chuckled at your comment. I loved the book and know exactly what you mean!
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