22 May, 2012

Jakov Lind

Jakov Lind was an Austrian-British writer. As an 11-year old boy from a Jewish family, he left Austria after the Anschluss (his parents had immigrated to Palestine before Germany annexed Austria), found temporary refuge in Holland, and succeeded in surviving inside Nazi Germany by assuming a Dutch identity: that of Jan Gerrit Overbeek. During this time, he worked on a barge in the Rhine, transporting goods between Holland and Germany. Of this period, Lind later wrote, "As Jan Gerrit Overbeek, I felt safe for the first time. It is crazy, walking around freely when one really should be sitting in a concentration camp. Crazy, perhaps, but a craziness that made me content, and happy."

In 1945, Jan Gerrit Overbeek became Jakov Chaklan, and he made his way to Haifa. After a literary apprenticeship, a marriage, and the birth of a son, he moved to Vienna for three years. Finally, in 1954, he settled in London, where he wrote, in German, the short stories and novels on which his stature as a major European writer is based: Soul of Wood, Landscape in Concrete, and Ergo. Lind began writing in English and the autobiography Counting My Steps was the first book written in his new language. On switching to English, Lind wrote that he was "Madder than anything...to think I could ever unlearn sounds I knew by heart and kidneys and replace them with other and better sounds." His stories have been translated into English, German, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, Spanish, Hungarian, and Czech. His work been adapted into plays, operas, and films. A collection of essays about his life and writings has also been published,Writing After Hitler: the Work of Jakov Lind (2001).

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