HOFFMAN, Eva




Author Tags: Jewish

Born in Krakow in 1945 as Ewa Wydra (later: Eva Hoffman), Eva Wydra Hoffman moved from Poland to Vancouver with her Jewish parents at age thirteen. She describes it as the formative experience of her life.

“The assumption was that we would never go back,” she says. “There was a great deal of a sense of rupture about it. The differences between Krakow and Vancouver were enormous. There was a cultural trauma, let us say, during those first stage of immigration.”

As the daughter of survivors (not camp or forest survivors), she changed her named to Eva in Canada, then studied at Rice University in Texas. She later studied at Yale and received her Ph.D in literature from Harvard. Her first book Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language (1989) describes her experiences in Poland and Vancouver. She worked for the New York Times from 1979 to 1990. She now lives in England. Her other books include Exit into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe (1993), Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews (1997) and After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Legacy of the Holocaust (2004).

“My parents had just emerged from the Holocaust when I was born. They came from a small town in the Ukraine. They had a strong sense of Jewish identity. A sense of suffering was very palpable in them. At the same time there was a sense of a tremendous will to live which I imbibed from them. They were largely self-educated but great readers. They passed along a very natural and intimate love of books.”

A gifted pianist, she chose literature over music with much difficulty. "The Vancouver to which I came did not have a rich musical life." Writing in English as a second language was a major hurdle. "Nothing fully exists until it is articulated," she writes in Lost in Translation. She has said, "This was really the main impact of immigration for me. My sense of the enormous importance of language. It is something that truly shapes us and truly shapes our perception of the world.... My struggle was for English to inhabit me."

[BCBW 2009]