[W]e may regard this as the Polish version of Art Spiegelman’s Maus—in its form, an excellent and utterly unexpected version. Such a comparison is not about imitation, nor about formal similarity, but about something essential for both authors: the child-artist’s struggle with the historical experience represented by the parent. A struggle for one’s own identity, for the right to one’s own life, for a way out of the mausoleum of the Holocaust. A struggle played out in the arena of art.
Bożena Keff was born in 1948 in Warsaw, where she currently resides. A lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of Warsaw, she is also a research associate of the Jewish Historical Institute. In addition to three previous books of poetry, she is the author, most recently, of Anti-Semitism: An Unfinished History (2013) and (as Bożena Umińska) Figure with Shadow: Portraits of Jewish Women in Polish Literature (2001). She contributes regularly to Poland’s leading magazines.
About the Translators
Alissa Valles is the author of the poetry books Orphan Fire (2008) and Anastylosis, a book-length poem published in a thermal paper edition for an exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 2014; she edited and co-translated Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems (2007) and Collected Prose (2010). Her translation of Ryszard Krynicki’s Our Life Grows will appear at NYRB Poets in 2017.
Benjamin Paloff is the author of the poetry collections And His Orchestra and The Politics, and of a critical volume, Lost in the Shadow of the Word (Space, Time, and Freedom in Interwar Eastern Europe). His translations include, most recently, Richard Weiner’s The Game for Real. He teaches at the University of Michigan.
On Mother and Fatherland
by Bożena Keff
translated by Benjamin Paloff and Alissa Valles
$19.95, paperback, 98 pp