Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of moderating a roundtable on ‘Translating the Holocaust’.

This was the fall event of CETRA, the KU Leuven Centre for Translation Studies – to which, after four years, as I’m saying goodbye as a director (but I stay on board). The roundtable was integrated in the 3-day seminar ‘Voicing the Silence: New Approaches in Russian and Ukrainian Literature on the Holocaust in the 21st Century’ (13-15/9/2022), an initiative of the CoHLIT-21 consortium and KU Leuven’s Department of Literary Studies, that looks into the afterlife of the Holocaust in contemporary Russian- and Ukrainian-language literature. The colleagues who organised this event were Marina Balina (Illinois Wesleyan University), Roman Katsman (Bar-Ilan University) and, last but not least, Kris Van Heuckelom (KU Leuven).

The invited experts of the roundtable included Yuliya Ilchuk (Stanford University), Anja Tippner (University of Hamburg), Olga Bukhina (New York) and Mateusz Świetlicki (University of Wrocław).

We talked about the translation of historical events into the Holocaust master narrative, the different approaches towards this narrative in Russia, Ukraine and Poland in the post-Soviet time, the circulation of children’s Holocaust literature (e.g. The Diary of Anne Frank) across national, linguistic and cultural borders. To conclude, the question was asked whether Russian literature is to be blamed for the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, which has important implications for the Holocaust remembrance. In the midst of war, can (translated) literature make a difference?

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