An inventive literary account of Cixous’s remarkable journey to her mother’s birthplace
Winner, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation
For about eighty years, the Jonas family of Osnabrück were part of a small but vibrant Jewish community in this mid-size city of Lower Saxony. After the war, Osnabrück counted not a single Jew. Most had been deported and murdered in the camps, others emigrated if they could and if they managed to overcome their own inertia. It is this inertia and failure to escape that Hélène Cixous seeks to account for in Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem.
Vicious anti-Semitism hounded all of Osnabrück’s Jews long before the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. So why did people wait to leave when the threat was so patent, so in-their-face? Drawn from the stories told to Cixous by her mother, Ève, and grandmother, Rosalie (Rosi), this literary work reimagines fragments of Ève’s and Rosi’s stories, including the death of Ève’s uncle, Onkel André. Piecing together the story of Andreas Jonas from what she was told and from what she envisages, Cixous recounts the tragedy of the one she calls the King Lear of Osnabrück, who followed his daughter to Jerusalem only to be sent away by her and to return to Osnabrück in time to be deported to a death camp.
Cixous wanders the streets of the city she had heard about all her life in her mother’s and grandmother’s stories, digs into its archives, meets city officials, all the while wondering if she should have come. These hesitations and reflections in the present, often voiced in dialogues staged with her own son or daughter, are woven with scenes from her childhood in Algeria and the half-remembered, half-invented stories of the Jonas family, making Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem one of the author’s most intensely engaging books.
This work received the French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation. French Voices is a program created and funded by the French Embassy in the United States and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange).
“Language in Cixous’s hands is molten, constantly opening onto fresh possibilities. Her Osnabruck Station to Jerusalem is an act of imagination, investigation, sojourn, and witness driven by terrible necessity and marbled with fierce, incomparable beauty.”
Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
“A deeply felt and deeply affecting book, permeated by a sense of love and loss, and of the desire to enter and understand—insofar as possible—a tragic and complex past. Peggy Kamuf’s translation wonderfully captures the tonal spectrum of Cixous’s writing.”
Eva Hoffman, from the Foreword