Books by Eva Hoffman

TIME by Eva Hoffman
Released: Nov. 2, 2009

"A lucid essay with which to while away a couple hours."
A slender meditation on the ticking clock by memoirist and novelist Hoffman (Appassionata, 2009, etc.), a self-confessed "chronophobiac." Read full book review >
Released: May 5, 2009

"Ambitious and elegantly written, but seriously overdetermined."
A concert pianist falls for a Chechen nationalist, with disastrous consequences. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

"A commendable contribution—but no match for Melvin Bukiet's superb second-generation anthology Nothing Makes You Free (2002)."
Literate if sometimes arid essays on the world—intellectual, cultural, and emotional—of the Holocaust's "second generation." Read full book review >
THE SECRET by Eva Hoffman
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"As can happen in philosophically inclined science fiction, the issues are more fully explored than the characters; but when those issues include the nature of reality and the location of the human soul, it's not such a drawback."
Set in 2022, this impressive first novel by nonfiction author Hoffman (Shtetl, 1997, etc.) sketches a creepily plausible near-future in which her protagonist experiences a very 21st-century identity crisis. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 2, 1997

Hoffman, author of the much-admired memoir Lost in Translation (1989), here returns to her dual roots, Jewish and Polish—and her history of the intertwined fates of the two peoples shows that they can indeed be complementary, not oppositional. Hoffman's goal is larger than her distillation of history- -acute and pointed, but a bit too schematic—can fully support. But her thesis is a fascinating one: that Poland, with historically large populations of Germans, Ukrainians, Jews, and other ethnic groups, was truly a multicultural society that can serve as an object lesson in how to achieve (or not achieve) a balance between minority group identity and ``a sense of mutual belonging.'' Where she does succeed fully is in her attempt to ``complicate and historicize the picture'' of Jewish-Polish relations in order to get beyond stereotyped views of Poles as congenitally anti-Semitic and of Jews as economic exploiters. Hoffman offers a nuanced view that excuses no act of hatred or violence yet considers, for instance, the difference between peasants' superstitious belief that Jews were lucky and genuine anti-Semitism, or how the endless conquering and division of Poland increased tensions and mistrust between Poles and Jews. Hoffman traces the history of Jews in Poland back to its origins in medieval times, before fervent Polish nationalism was born and the country was a beneficent refuge for Jews. She then focuses in on one shtetl, or village, Brask, as a microcosm of the waxing and waning of relations between the two peoples. In Brask, Polish peasants and Jewish craftsmen and merchants lived side by side: Poles attended cantorial concerts, and Jewish musicians played at Polish weddings; Poles incorporated Yiddish phrases into their speech, and Jews adopted the dress of Polish gentry. And yet, Hoffman concludes, each was seen as fundamentally ``Other.'' But Hoffman is optimistic that the gulf can be—and is being- -crossed. This insightful overview points out how we can begin to understand a complex past and apply those lessons in the future. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

In a superb successor to her impressive personal memoir, Lost in Translation (1988), Hoffman chronicles two trips taken a year apart to de-Sovietized East Europe—touring her native Poland, as well as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In each place, Hoffman talks to people (with the weight perhaps shifted inescapably to literati, political sophisticates, high achievers) and takes a remarkably humane measure of the confusions, hopes, and lavish soulfulness born of unsentimental realism that's Mitteleuropa's greatest resource. She reliably detects nuance because, in a sense, she expects to find it (``History is a process of double-ledger accounting''). Sociology never overtly jogs her focus, yet she avails herself of large, thoughtful revelations: ``It may be that just as tonality recurs in music and realism in painting, so the idea of liberalism recurs in politics—though each time in a different vein. Eastern European liberalism seems not so much born again as refined in the crucible of successive skepticisms. It has seen the dangers of fanaticism, dogmatism, and cynicism; the dangers of too much belief and none at all.'' The people she talks to seem to be master self-modulators: victims but not eternal victims, needy but never without humor, aware of nationhood the way no Western patriot quite manages to be. And the book's easily as good just as sheer travel-writing. Hoffman stays open to the physical gorgeousness of Prague, the high civilization of Budapest hotel baths, the odd survival of the Transylvanian Gypsy nonculture—and she falls in love with Bulgaria (for the Bulgarians' innate poise and lack of spiritual turmoil), just as poor Romania, plaything of a madman, seems the most cursed nation of all after the spasms of 1989. From each land Hoffman is able to generalize only when it seems called for, and to refrain from generalizing when the broad view might only obscure: a rare thing. A remarkable book. (One map) Read full book review >