Peter Filkins, translator of H.G. Adler: Panorama & The Journey

Peter Filkins

Translator Peter Filkins talks about H.G. Adler’s PANORAMA. Set in the vanished world of pre-war Bohemia, it follows the young Joseph from childhood in Prague to adulthood in the concentration camps. Filkins also talks about Adler’s THE JOURNEY. And we preview next week’s show.

H.G. Adler was one of the greatest novelists you’ve never heard of. A survivor of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, the Czech national moved to London after the War and began writing fiction, poetry, philosophy, and history–most of it centered around his experience of the Holocaust. His book about day-to-day life in Theresienstadt was one of the first such survivor accounts to emerge from the war and it basically invented the field of Holocaust studies. But his fiction remained largely unknown, especially outside the German speaking world–a loss for us, as his writing is brilliant, almost hallucinatory in its lyrical penetration of the emotional reality of suffering.

In 2008, we spoke with award-winning translator Peter Filkins about H.G. Adler’s novel, THE JOURNEY, the first of three based on Adler’s life. Now, Filkins has translated the second in the trilogy, PANORAMA.

The novel is constructed as a series of discrete windows into the life of its protagonist, Josef. The novel begins by recreating the vanished world of Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hugarian empire. We follow Josef as he moves from childhood in a middle class Jewish family in Prague, through his youth, then as a forced laborer under the German occupation, an inmate in the camps, and finally after the war in London. What emerges is a kind of Joycean Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, Filkins says, that illuminates Josef’s deepening moral sense as his world dissolves around him.

Read an excerpt from Panorama

In addition to translating PANORAMA and THE JOURNEY, Peter Filkins has translated the writings of Ingeborg Bachmann.

The Journey
The Journey is a semi-autobiographical novel about a family caught in the vise of the Holocaust and sent to Theresienstadt. We air an excerpt from our 2008 interview with Peter Filkins about the book. In his excellent review, Richard Lourie wrote:

The novel’s streaming consciousness and verbal play invite comparison with Joyce, the individual-dwarfing scale of law and prohibition brings Kafka to mind, and there is something in the hypnotic pulse of the prose that is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein.

Preview of Next Week’s Show: Two Novels about the Vietnam War

We talk to Tatjana Soli about her novel, THE LOTUS EATERS, a New York Times Notable Book for 2010. It explores the story of three compelling characters, a seasoned journalist, Sam; his protÁ©gÁ© Helen; and Sam’s assistant, a Vietnamese man named Linh. And David Rabe talks about GIRL BY THE ROAD AT NIGHT. It’s about the developing relationship between a young American soldier and a Vietnamese bar girl and how they struggle to find their own emotional truth in the midst of the conflict raging around them.

CORRECTION to the audio: In the audio, David Rabe’s book is identified as “Girl On The Road”. Writer’s Voice apologizes for the error.

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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.