Memory in Exile: Eva Hoffman's "Lost in Translation"
Eva Hoffman’s memoir, Lost in Translation, is a timeline of events from her life in Cracow, Poland – Paradise – to her immigration to Vancouver, Canada – Exile – and into her college and literary life – The New World. Eva breaks up her journey into these three sections and gives her personal observations of her assimilation into a new world. The story is based on memory – Eva Hoffman gives us her first-hand perspective through flashbacks with introspective analysis of her life “lost in translation”. It is her memory that permeates through her writing and furthermore through her experiences. As the reader we are presented many examples of Eva’s memory as they appear through her interactions. All of these interactions evoke memory,
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This becomes present in her writing as she explains about her dairy. Eva finds it hard to decide whether she should write her private thoughts in her native language or her present one. She decided to write in English even though it’s not the language of her inner-self. “There is a certain pathos to this naïve snobbery, for the diary is an earnest attempt to create a part of my persona that I imagine I would have grown into in Polish. In the solitude of this most private act, I write, in my public language, in order to update what might have been my other self. The diary is about me and not about me at all. But one level, it allows me to make the first jump. I learn English through writing, and, in turn writing gives me a written self” (121). This theme continues throughout her day-to-day life of finding her new self through comparison with the memory of what she once knew. This comparison is prevalent in her interaction with the people accustom to the culture around her. Eva mentions a party that turns into a game of spin the bottle. “I’ve found myself among a strange tribe of adolescents – in Poland, a relatively unidentified species – and that this is a sad comedown from Marek and the packs of boys and girls I ran with in Cracow” (131). The passage evokes memories of Marek, considered Eva’s love in Poland. This relationship that Eva remembers from her youth is a substantial moment in her life as she continues to