"Translation as Transhumance" excerpt in Granta
Forthcoming from Feminist Press and Les Fugitives (UK) next month, here's a quick snippet of Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel, translated from the French by Ros Schwartz. Want more? Pre-order now!
Just one room, with a high ceiling and those big English bay windows. One room to live in. The home of an exile, Mitzi, Grandmother Deborah’s niece, and her elderly mother, Emma, who had been born in Poland. THe room was allocated to them by the British refugee office when, right after the Anschluss, the government opened the border for one month to Czechoslovakian nationals living in Vienna. In a corner, behind a screen, a wash basin and, just next to it, a two-ring gas cooker. Two narrow divans upholstered in worn velvet, and a sagging armchair and two chairs around a small table. An old suitcase on top of the wardrobe, the toilet along the hall. And the electricity meter, which you have to feed with coins to have light when dusk falls or when the London sky is grey and lowering. London where, after the war, they were reunited with a cousin, the conductor Rudolf Schwartz – the sole survivor of his large Slovakian family – who was deported to Auschwitz and then, thanks to Furtwangler, released.
Only to be sent to Sachsenhausen and Bergen-Belsen.
One summer’s day, for the first time, Mitzi broached the past. Past in the present, so present, with everything it had deposited in this room that suddenly seemed so vast. Everything that the grim tide deposits on the shores of a life. A bit like picking up and reassembling the fragments of a vase shattered by history, by the Holocaust. Perhaps an attempt to alleviate so many absences.