Angel of Oblivion, Maja Haderlap
By Maja Haderlap
Archipelago Books, 2016
Winner of the Austrian Cultural Forum NY Translation Prize, the 2017 PEN Translation Prize, Nominated for the Best Translated Book Award
Angel of Oblivion is based on the experiences of Maja Haderlap’s family and the Slovenian-speaking minority in southern Austria, many of whom fought as partisans against the Nazis during the World War II. The story centers on the experiences of a young girl learning to navigate the terrain between two hostile communities and two extremely burdened languages: Slovenian, a language of heroic resistance and continued humiliation, and German, an escape from her stifling, rural upbringing but also the language of the camps that claimed the lives of many of her family members. Engaging with themes of tolerance and integration of minority communities, the burden of history, the effects of conflicts on survivors and their children, and language’s role in shaping identity, Haderlap’s novel strikes at problems of paramount importance to our world today.
Praise for Angel of Oblivion
"A first-person narration intimate enough to record an interior journey of self-discovery, it captures nuances of fleeting emotion thanks to Haderlap's long-exercised lyric talent while also furnishing as riveting and lucid an account of the Austrian Slovenes in their suffering during and after World War II...[Tess Lewis] shows her mastery of poetic craft everywhere in her prose narration."
— Vincent King, Translation Review
"An arresting evocation of memory, community, and suffering."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Haderlap plunges readers into a morass of European history..."
— Publishers Weekly
Tess Lewis has done a fine job of translating Haderlap’s lucid and lyrical prose, particularly the dread-tinged segments: "I’m afraid that death has taken root inside me, like a small black button, like a latticework of dark moss creeping invisibly over my skin." In the end, though, Angel of Oblivion strikes a positive note, becoming a hymn to remembrance – one urging us to salvage and safeguard the shards of our past from the tide of history.
— Malcolm Forbes, The National
Angel of Oblivion, with its doomed and colourful cast of real-life characters, as well as multiple cruel twists of fate, is a devastating story, never less than wholeheartedly told.
— Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
"Along with everything else she accomplishes with this powerful work — a work of historical witness, a Sebaldian descent into the depths of memory, and a brave and innovative hybrid of fiction and memoir — Haderlap (and her English translator) deserve praise for breaking the silence to bring the stories of Slovenian-speaking Austrians to a much broader audience." — Brendan Driscoll, in The Millions
"[A] painstaking and emotional account of the Slovenian-speaking minority in Austria during and after World War II."
— Abby Sheaffer, ChicagoNow
"Haderlap’s novel seems to transcend the boundaries between languages and histories."
— Iga Nowicz, The Glossa
Angel of Oblivion is a continuous, plunging attempt to express the disorderly but urgent moment of daring to master the unmasterable. There is nothing so crass here as an ‘arc’ or a redemptive release. The reader is on the hook until the end – at which point the narrative’s underlying premises shimmer.
— Ron Slate, On the Seawall
Haderlap’s novel brings to mind the work of artist Anselm Kiefer (whose work can be seen at the SFMOMA’s “German Art After 1960” exhibition). His paintings evoke the same desolate feeling of a landscape, natural and mental, poisoned by the Holocaust. Though Kiefer’s art is influenced by foreign myths and symbols, there is that same idea that Maja Haderlap confronts in Angel of Oblivion: that even the generation born after the fall of the Third Reich is affected by its legacy.
— Devan Brettkelly, ZYZZYVA
Angel of Oblivion is an unexpected surprise. It’s a glorious feat for an author to leave her readers in a state of complacency all the while telling a difficult and poignant story. Beautiful as it were, devastating in some instances. It reminds us that we are the sum of our memories and even if we feel insignificant now, our stories could hold some influence to someone in the future.
— Joyous Reads
A sparkling and hugely sympathetic English translation.... Maja Haderlap is a dramaturge and a poet and her prose is full of rich poetic images and constructions. It is a profoundly beautiful and deeply upsetting novel worthy of all the prizes.
— Henrietta Foster, European Literature Network