Essay on Memory in Exile: Eva Hoffman's "Lost in Translation"

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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,…show more content…
Because they were the first things, the incomparable things, the only things. It’s by adhering to the contours of a few childhood objects that the substance of ourselves – the molten force we’re made of – molds and shapes itself.” (74).
The changes create a world of comparisons – knowing the world of paradise in Cracow presents an instant dichotomy with that of her newly uncharted American culture. Eva presents many examples of the differences between the two cultures. The significant difference is, of course, the language barrier. Eva explains her actual loss in translation – that the words of Eva’s native language don’t hold the same meaning as that of the words in English. She explains, “‘River’ in Polish was a vital sound, energized with the essence of riverhood, of my rivers, of my being immersed in rivers. ‘River’ in English is cold – a word without an aura. It has no accumulated associations for me, and it does not give off the radiating haze of connotation. It does not evoke” (106). This loss of meaning is omnipresent in all of American culture in Eva’s eyes. Eva laments that, “I have no interior language, and without it, interior images – those images through which we assimilate the external world, through which we take it in, love it, make it our own – become blurred too“ (108). Due to this

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