Life. A Temporary Title

About / O:

Irit Amiel’s autobiography, published in Poland by Czuły Barbarzyńca in 2014.

Autobiografia Irit Amiel, wydana w Polsce przez Czułego Barbarzyńcę w 2014 roku.

Excerpt / Fragment:

You are born twice. The first time you enter the world in springtime, 1931, when the lilac is in blossom. It’s a breech birth. What can you expect from life, if you are born bottom-first, rather than head-first?

You are supposed to be named Józefa, after grandfather Josef, but Mum says that all housemaids in the old country are called Józefa, so her only daughter cannot carry this name.

Forty years after the war, during a visit to Częstochowa, you open a Catholic calendar and see – to your great astonishment – that 5 May, your birthday, is devoted to Saint Irene. You burst into hysterical tears, realizing how very Polish these Polish Jews wanted to be, the ones who die for their Jewishness.


That’s how this journey backwards starts, this regressive odyssey to the very beginning, to Genesis, to the childhood language, to a sentence heard once, verses remembered, songs and smells dispersed by the wind of old times and forgotten.

And it all starts with words. Words can kill and resurrect. You live in some country, any country. You are spoken to in some language, any language. Mother sings you lullabies in this language, tells you off, Father makes you laugh and tells you stories. And this language becomes the most important language of your life. And you are born in Poland and spoken to in Polish. The whole spectrum of your early experiences, good and bad, is in the Polish language. It is not the old country that leaves you; you leave it. Only then comes what you already know all too well. When you finally realize that the old country is your hopeless, unrequited love, you start looking for a new love object. You leave Poland for Israel, but the language follows you and becomes the last link between you and your childhood and the tragedy. You can leave a country, but it is difficult to leave a language.


Życie. Tytuł tymczasowy


Irit Amiel

Photo by Bogdan Frymorgen


Vallentine Mitchell



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