Poetic, witty, and ever so faintly surreal, Sefer
delicately explores the legacy of the Holocaust for the postwar
generation, a generation for whom a devastating history has grown
distant, both temporally and emotionally. The novel's
protagonist, Jan Sefer, is a psychotherapist living in
Vienna-someone whose professional life puts him in daily contact
with the traumas of others but who has found it difficult to address
his own family background, especially his memories of his father.
During a two-week trip to his father's birthplace, Krakow-a
visit he has long postponed-he begins to sort out some of his
feelings and to connect with a past the memory of which is swiftly
disintegrating. Much like memory itself, Sefer speaks to us
obliquely, through the juxtaposition of images and vignettes rather
than through the construction of a linear narrative. With its
fragmentary structure and its preference for hints rather than
explanations, the novel belongs to the realm of the postmodern, while
it also incorporates subtle elements of magical realism.
One of Poland's best-known poets, Ewa Lipska is today a major
figure in European literature. In their translation of Sefer,
Lipska's first novel, translators Barbara Bogoczek and Tony
Howard deftly capture the poet's unmistakable voice-cool
and precise, gently ironic, and deeply humane.
Born in 1945 in Krakow, Ewa Lipska was for many years the poetry editor of the literary magazine Pismo, which she co-founded, and was active in Poland's Nowa Fala, or New Wave. Her many prizes include the Koscielski Fund Award, the Robert Graves Pen Club Award, and Pen Club Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Her poetry has been widely translated, into Hebrew as well as into European languages. Barbara Bogoczek is a freelance translator and interpreter based in London. Tony Howard is professor of English at Warwick University. Together they have translated works by numerous Polish authors-Ewa Lipska, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, Hanna Krall, and many others-into English.