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Migration fiction moves on

The last half century has seen long-distance migration shift from an exceptional to a normal aspect of global life. As Eva Hoffman's latest novel shows, this new migration is a realm of more subtle traumas and dislocations than the old, yet it remains an impetus for enduring art

By Emran Mian   August 2008

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Illuminations by Eva Hoffman (Harvill Secker, £16.99)

Eva Hoffman’s memoir of migration, Lost in Translation, first published in 1989, begins aboard a ship leaving Poland 30 years earlier. “We can’t be leaving all this behind,” writes Hoffman in her dismay, “but we are.” Looking ahead, she describes “an erasure, of the imagination, as if a camera eye has snapped shut.” Her family is moving to Canada, a place of which Hoffman knows nothing more than “vague outlines, a sense of vast spaces and little habitation.”

By contrast, Isabel, the…

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