Praying for an end

Michael Hofmann

  • Scenes from a Disturbed Childhood by Adam Czerniawski
    Serpent’s Tail, 167 pp, £9.99, October 1991, ISBN 1 85242 241 6
  • Crossing: The Discovery of Two Islands by Jakov Lind
    Methuen, 222 pp, £14.99, November 1991, ISBN 0 413 17640 1
  • The Unheeded Warning 1918-1933 by Manes Sperber, translated by Harry Zohn
    Holmes & Meier, 216 pp, £17.95, December 1991, ISBN 0 8419 1032 4

These books are the autobiographies of three displaced persons. In terms of anno domini, they might make up a single, almost seamless life: childhood (Czerniawski), youth (Sperber) and manhood (Lind). But such a life would be a monster of contradiction. Two of the authors write in their acquired language, English, and one has been translated from German; two are individualists, one is a subscriber to causes, a disciple and a belonger; two are (rather dissimilar) Jews, one had a Catholic upbringing; two fetch up in England, one in France. I will be Anglocentric and begin with the English.

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