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Influences of a Cross-cultural Life: Impact of Western and Polish Cultures in Eva Hoffman's Writings

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Life in post-war Cracow was past its worst Stalinist period when they left but the cold war was raging at its peak. Poland was at that time a country devastated and impoverished by war. The old renaissance Cracow buildings had a classical aura around them. The place was remote and calm. North America, on the other hand, was the center of the world. Eva had her roots equally immersed in Polish and Jewish cultures. North American culture of the late sixties and seventies were in no way similar to both. This made her (Hoffman, 1989, p. 110) say that “ when I am with my peers, who come by crinolines, lipstick, cars and self-confidence naturally, my gestures show that I am here provisionally, by their grace, that I don’ t rightfully belong. ” It took several years to feel that sense of belonging that she was talking about.

Distant memories of war and suffering that kept on resurfacing in her mind were in stark contrast to the idiosyncrasies of the West. Even insignificant incidents like a football match made her think about the difference in the culture in which she had landed without her will.

She (1989) wrote, I witness rituals as arcane as Aztec ceremonies - elaborate ceremonies of floodlit cheerleading, collective genuflections to a large stuffed owl, which is the university's mascot, and once a near riot which starts up when an umpire's decision provokes streams of boys from both warring camps to run down the bleachers with the full intention of attacking each other - only to be stopped dead when the Rice band strikes up the national anthem. It is their respect for the law which astonishes me as much as all their bloodlust. (p. 173)She also wrote, she often failed to get through with Polish jokes with her American friends (Hoffman, 1989, p. 119).

The language was the strongest presence in Polish culture and it was carried by Hoffman across the seas to the new land that her parents chose to go. And for her, there started a long voyage in search of one’ s complicated self that is essentially created by language. This mental state is reflected in the below statement of Eva Hoffman(1989): ‘ River’ in Polish was a vital sound, energized with the essence of riverhood, of my rivers, of my being immersed in rivers.

‘ River’ in English is a cold-a word without an aura. It has no accumulated associations for me. It does not give off the radiating haze of connotation” (p. 106) So Hoffman decided to redeem her lost culture in a new form through language itself and she called it “ translation therapy. ” (Hoffman, 1989, p. 271).

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