Could Prague have been more wonderful?

The publication of SALA’S GIFT in Czech was a cause for celebration; that I was there to celebrate in Prague made it all the more wonderful.

I had a wonderful three days of meetings and interviews through the efforts of Mlada Fronta, my Czech publisher.  I loved working with Tony Koci and Magdalena Potměšilová.

We will all have our fifteen minutes of fame, or so saith Andy Warhol; I just didn’t know that mine would be in Czech.  I did the equivalent of the Today Show, then another longer interview on a show that will air this Sunday. Never did like doing live tv, especially through an interpreter.  Not a comfortable situation, to be spoken to in a language where you can’t grasp a single word, and then hear the translation and respond.  I just watched the interview and see on my face the very essence of farkrumpt punim. You too can laugh at me here:

All of this began when Eva Rennerova googled Zacler and came up with my book.  As the director of the Zacler Museum, she was intrigued, and her interest led to an exhibition that was based on our NYPL exhibit but enhanced with local material.

That sparked the interest of Karin Venhauer, a young documentary filmmaker, who decided that she would do a film about Sala.  With remarkable tenacity, Karin led a small crew to Monsey, New York, to interview Sala and me.  She also won THINK BIG, a major Czech competition for creative projects, which underwrote the translation and publication of Sala’s Gift in Czech, now SALIN DAR, translated beautifully by Petra Efflorova.

All of this came together last week.  The book was officially launched at the Polish Institute in Prague.

Many thanks to Judita Matyášová for her article in Lidove Noviny 6 March 2012.

On Wednesday, I spent the entire day in Trutnov and Zacler.   Gave a talk to 350 teenagers, simultaneously translated by Petra, and thinking how odd it was to be talking to the grandchildren of the men and women who lived in Zacler during the war. They sang happy birthday to Sala, who turned  88 on Monday, March 5.

Later, standing by the field where the Zacler labor camp barracks once stood, the place where my mother was liberated on May 8, 1945, I was overcome with a complicated set of emotions.  Among the strongest was a sense of profound unworthiness.  I was there in my mother’s place, to talk and write about these times with sincere motivation — despite the fact that I am so far from the reality.  All of us are.  Only the survivors can speak with authority.  Their memories are faulty but still far more authentic than what we create.  And yet soon we will be the best the world can do.

Here is the Czech trailer for the book, created by Karin Venhauer:

What? You don’t speak Czech? here’s the English version on YouTube: