Angel of Oblivion


Translated from by

Published: August 30, 2016





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Book Description

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.

"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

"In her novel Angel of Oblivion, Maja Haderlap conducts a battle with the horrific pictures of her childhood that is both impressive and oppressive… the act of writing down these memories was a means of liberation. … Maja Haderlap succeeds in creating vivid scenes of an archaic landscape and its rural way of life. One can sense she is a poet."

Die Zeit

"Haderlap has written Angel of Oblivion in German with a clear and yet poetic tone, in which time is a solid glacier crushing underneath itself everything that the young hero once saw as wonderful and enduring."

Der Spiegel

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

"Angel of Oblivion is a beautifully poetic novel about a young girl navigating the treacherous terrain between two hostile communities and two extremely burdened languages: Slovenian as a language of heroic resistance and continued humiliations suffered, and German, a way out of her stifling rural upbringing but also the language of the camps, which her Grandmother barely survived and many family members didn’t."

Festival Neue Literatur

"Illuminating an almost forgotten chapter of European history and the European present... Angel of Oblivion deals with harrowing subjects – murder, torture, persecution and discrimination of an ethnic minority – in intricate and lyrical prose."

New Books in German

"The strength of Haderlap’s novel is that it stretches far back in time, in order to make the present recognisable."

Paul Jandl

"[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

"By telling her grandmother’s story, the narrator finds her own, unmistakeable language, which speaks against the general urge to forget."


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

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 poignant, beautiful book touching upon big themes of family, loss, art, and the critical question of whether death can provide relief from a life filled with chronic pain. González is compassionate without being overtly sentimental. It’s a deeply moving novel that dwells on the intimacy and humour of a family, of displaying resilience amid pain, and as another author has put it, “manages to say new things about the way we feel.
Radhika Pandit, Radhika's Reading Retreat

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

In this interview, Maja Haderlap discusses her love of translation.

In her opening speech for the 2014 Bachmann Prize ceremony in Klagenfurt, Maja Haderlap discussed writing and the poetics of the periphery. The speech has been translated by Adrian West and made available by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York.

In December 2014, Maja Haderlap spoke to the Austrian Cultural Forum in London. Iga Nowicz writes about the event and “reflects on memory, history and the challenge of capturing experience” for Kings College London’s The Glossa magazine.

As we posted, Tess Lewis won the Austrian Cultural Forum’s 2015 translation prize for this translation.

Two of Tess Lewis’ translations of Maja’s poems, “when speech left me” and “translation,” were published in the February issue of Words Without Borders.

In this interview, Tess Lewis answers questions about translating Angel of Oblivion with PEN America after winning the 2017 PEN Translation Prize.

Tess Lewis’ writes about the work of Maja Haderlap for Poetry Society of the America

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