distant transit


Translated from by

Published: March 22, 2022





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Book Description

Infused with movement, Maja Haderlap’s distant transit traverses Slovenia’s scenic landscape and violent history, searching for a sense of place within its evershifting boundaries. Avoiding traditional forms and pronounced rhythms, Haderlap unleashes a flow of evocative, captivating passages whose power lies in their associative richness and precision of expression, vividly conjuring Slovenia’s natural world – its rolling meadows, snow-capped alps, and sparkling Adriatic coast. Belonging to the Slovene ethnic minority and its inherited, transgenerational trauma, Haderlap explores the burden of history and the prolonged aftershock of conflict – warm, lavish pastoral passages conceal dark memories, and musings on the way language can create and dissolve borders reveal a deep longing for a sense of home. At its core, distant transit is an ode to survival, building a monument to traditions and lives lost.

The Slovenian Austrian poet Maja Haderlap explores the mystery and art of translation in a new collection called “distant transit.” Her poems, translated from the German by Tess Lewis, are intellectually provocative and slyly profound.
Ron Charles, Washington Post

These poems by a Slovenian Austrian writer contemplate the difficulty of feeling at home in a land defined by violence.
The New York Times

Though Haderlap wrote these poems in German, a language with a broader reach than Slovenian, Tess Lewis’s English version conveys the poet’s fraught relationship with her languages, and the ways in which Slovenian haunts the composition as well as the mythology and folklore of the collection . . . I sense that the gravitas of these poems has its source in both “rivers”: the extra-lingual psyche and the Ljubljanica, the river of Haderlap’s home terrain, troubled with memories and remnants of war.
Heather Green, Harriet Books

Language is for Haderlap both hearth and prison ... she embraces that zone of darkness, the transformations that each language necessarily effects on our experience, to write of the past as part of the present, and of herself in this present, a woman trying to make sense of a bewildering world and her ever-changing place in it.
Nicola Vulpe, World Literature Today

Haderlap’s abiding interest in language and the burden of history suffuses distant transit too, as does her powerful sense of landscape. These poems are prickly, alluring, and strangely alchemical; they probe at the possibilities of words in the face of the past. One particularly fine poem begins: “how much the torn-open field i / stand before betrays.” What Haderlap finds in those fields is elegantly captured in her poems – and splendidly rendered in Lewis’s thoughtful translation.
Alexander Wells, ExBerliner

There are books that I seem to keep returning to after I read—poetry which continues to resonate, for whatever reason, across the days and weeks and months. Maja Haderlap’s—a grimoire stitched together with both longing and absences, with tongues and vowels uttered and forgotten, with languages cast upon rivers and carried away—is one of those books.
Mark Wagenaar, Plume

Perhaps translation into other languages, allowing the poems to find new readers, is a fitting destiny for distant transit. While occupation determines the speaker’s sense of self in language ('the border tightened / your steel collar'), Lewis’ translation helps accomplish the desire expressed in the lines 'my language / wants to be unbridled and large, it wants / to leave behind the fears that occupy it.'
Kelsi Vanada, Action Books

Haderlap’s poems are political but without pathos. And they are poetic without being artificial. This is no mean feat. Strongly recommended.
Tiroler Tageszeitung

Wondrously expressive poems.
Karl-Markus Gauß, Süddeutsche Zeitung

There is no doubt that [Haderlap’s poetry] sets a new benchmark in modern poetry with regard to thematic variation in linguistic reflection and direct expression.
Walter Pobaschnig, literaturoutdoors

Maja Haderlap's poetry and prose combine poetic brilliance with explosive political power.
2018 Max Frisch Prize jury

The desire to abolish borders, to free confined discourse, is inscribed in these poems as an ambivalent back and forth between escape and groundedness.
Ilma Rakusa, NZZ

[Haderlap’s] imagery is rich, inspired by the natural beauty of her native countryside, yet filled with longing and questioning . . . The poems that comprise distant transit speak to a personal political reality in intimate, yet recognizable terms . . . More specifically and powerfully though, Haderlap animates the mystery, power and baggage that a language can carry with it, how words and sentences are laden with implications for understanding the past and the present, to articulate one’s identity as an individual torn between two tongues.
Joseph Schreiber, Rough Ghosts

Praise for Angel of Oblivion

Haderlap's novel seems to transcend the boundaries between languages and histories.
Iga Nowicz, The Glossa on 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

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

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

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

Haderlap’s poems evoke a world whose inhabitants are never quite themselves, aliens even in their own homes… If we are nothing else, Haderlap suggests, we are our language… She doesn’t long for some bucolic homeland or heroic past in the valley that doesn’t belong to her, any more than she longs to speak only Slovenian or German or any other language. On the contrary, she embraces that zone of darkness, the transformations that each language necessarily effects on our experience.
Nicola Vulpe, World Literature Today

You can read four poems from the collection in Hotel here

Tess Lewis’ essay about the work of Maja Haderlap