Deepening Essay: “Lost in Translation” and “The Way to Rainy Mountain.” The story “Lost in translation” by Eva Hoffmann is a simple tale that takes the form of a memory about the author’s childhood. In particular the author writes about the day when she left Europe with her family to travel to Canada in search of a better life…
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The main idea that comes from this story is the loss of homeland and how this affects a child in later life. The story is told from the point of view of an adult looking back at what happened in the past. It combines the incomprehension of the child, with the rather sad later knowledge of the adult. The author makes the story come alive by using the first person and the present tense at the start of the story: “It is April 1959, I’m standing at the railing of the Batory’s upper deck, and I feel that my life is ending.” (Hoffman, p. 176). As the story progresses it becomes clear that the journey to Canada is just a beginning, and the start of a whole new life, but what makes the story so moving is the fact that the child cannot imagine what lies in the future. The child clings to memories of her old house, the city of Cracow, and all the familiar sights and sounds of her childhood, because that is all she has ever known. The fact that she confuses the concepts of “Canada” and “Sahara” shows that she is ignorant and scared, likely to be very shocked and surprised by what lies ahead. This story is a very remarkable one because it captures a very sad moment in the history of the whole Jewish people, as well as an important transitional phase in the life of a young child. The most memorable feature of the story is the way that it makes the idea of “nostalgia” come alive through the description of tiny details in the girl’s life. Even ordinary things like the sight and sound of tram cars in the city makes the child long for home. I was very impressed by the author’s skill in presenting the city with tenderness. The child is very attached to this place, and says that she loved the city of Cracow as she “as one loved a person” (Hoffman, p, 176). This made me realize that each person grows up with a well-defined sense of place, and that it is natural to think of one’s home as if it were a beloved person, with all its faults and problems as well as all its good qualities. I can identify with the feeling of abandoning the past, and losing connection with a place of great innocence, just as the author explains in the phrase: “I, too, felt I was being pushed out of the happy, safe enclosures of Eden” (Hoffman, p. 177). It is the innocence of the child, and not the place, that makes the memory so sweet, but of course at the time the child cannot understand it. Cracow was a place of terrible atrocities in the Second World War, but the message of the story is that for the children there, it was an idyllic place of great beauty and peace. I learned from this story that a sense of place, even when it is only a distant memory, is an essential part of a person’s identity, and that writing about its loss is a good way of dealing with the pain of separation. This story made me reflect on how important places are in our lives, and how each person is in some way imprinted with a certain kind of thinking, which comes from the place of their birth. I was born in China, and though I now live many thousands of miles away, I have an eternal link to the place of my birth, and the people who cared for me when I was a child. Even though new experiences come along, and my thinking changes as I grow older and learn about the wider world, I am very conscious that a deep part of me is always going to reflect my native origins. I would recommend this story because it describes a very
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