#RivetingReviews: Anna Blasiak reviews DISTANT TRANSIT by Maja Haderlap

Maja Haderlap grew up in the border region of Carinthia in the south of Austria, a member of the Slovenian minority. The baggage that comes from growing up traumatised with inherited, transgenerational trauma – Slovenian Carinthians were persecuted during the Second World War – comes across strongly in Haderlap’s most recent volume of poetry. She deals with memory and history, with the volatility of where ‘the border strip / swung back and forth’, and where ‘villages / went astray’.

Haderlap began to receive recognition after publishing several volumes of poetry in Slovenian. At the age of fifty, she wrote a novel in German about her family’s and community’s experiences during the Second World War: Angel of Oblivion, also translated into English by Tess Lewis (Archipelago Books, 2016).

distant transit is Haderlap’s first poetry collection in German, and it has to be said that her relationship with German is marked by distress. The collection is sprinkled with Slovenian place names, plants and insects, myths and folklore; the German influenced by Slovenian diction and composition. ‘In my voice / the first language crystallises and / learns the codes of memory by heart.’ Haderlap writes openly about the push-and-pull experience of being situated between two languages, of the pressure, confusion and conflict it creates, and how that affects everything. The poet wonders what happened ‘when language left me’. This is a question often asked by people of diverse backgrounds who end up in the linguistic no-man’s-land, the forever ‘in-between’, whether as the result of immigration or shifting borders and territorial power grabs.

In fact, what Haderlap captures so well in her poems is the near interchangeability of language and identity. Language is, after all, mentality, identity. The poet shows how enriching it can be to experience this linguistic borderland, but also how difficult and dangerous it can be. Lethal, even. After all, minority languages are prone to disappear, to being devoured by more dominant ones. But minority languages can also prove resilient, put up a good fight, become stronger by feeding off the oppressor.

The poems in distant transit are quite intimate in their microscopic exploration of ordinariness. Apart from the convoluted history of her people, Haderlap also examines the natural world, Slovenian folklore and mythology. There is something gentle, like lapping waves in her lines, with an occasional surf breaking over the reader’s head with a surprisingly cold or salty spray. Though the droplets are no fine shower. They fall heavy and loaded. And even though everything seems to be balanced, measured and precise, even though there is not a surplus word here, the quiet tone cuts right to the quick.

Reviewed by Anna Blasiak


by Maja Haderlap

Translated by Tess Lewis

Published by Archipelago Books (2022)

Read The Austrian Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy books from The Austrian Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Austrian Riveter bookshop.org page.

Anna Blasiak is a poet, writer, translator, journalist and Managing Editor of the European Literature Network. Recently she translated According to Her by Maciej Hen, published a bilingual poetry and photography book with Lisa Kalloo Café by Wren’s St-James-in-the-Fields, Lunchtime, and a book-length interview with a Holocaust survivor, Lili: Lili Stern-Pohlmann in conversation with Anna Blasiak.

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE TRILOGY OF SURFACES AND INVISIBILITIES by Nora Gomringer


Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of ISLAND MOUNTAIN GLACIER by Anne Vegter

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of LITTLE DEAD RABBIT by Astrid Alben, illustrated by Zigmunds Lapsa

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE LITTLE BOOK OF PASSAGE and AT AN HOUR’S SLEEP FROM HERE: POEMS (2007-2019) by Franca Mancinelli

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of WITHIN THE SWEET NOISE OF LIFE: SELECTED POEMS by Sandro Penna

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of A NEW ORTHOGRAPHY by Serhiy Zhadan

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of I’D LIKE TO SAY SORRY, BUT THERE’S NO ONE TO SAY SORRY TO by Mikołaj Grynberg

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of FOUCAULT IN WARSAW by Remigiusz Ryziński

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of SOMEWHERE A BLIND CHILD by Ion Cristofor

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of FIVE BOOKS by Ana Blandiana

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of MADGERMANES by Birgit Weyhe

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of BICKI-BOOKS by various authors

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THINGS I DIDN’T THROW OUT by Marcin Wicha

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE BOOK OF VENICE. A CITY IN SHORT FICTION edited by Orsola Casagrande

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of IN MEMORY OF MEMORY by Maria Stepanova

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of CITY OF SANDCASTLES by Hagar Peeters

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of NIGHT TRUCK DRIVER by Marcin Świetlicki


Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of HANA by Alena Mornštajnová

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of NO TIME LIKE NOW by Andrei Codrescu

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of UNDER CLOUDED SKIES and BEAUREGARD / PENSÉES SOUS LES NUAGES et BEAUREGARD by Philippe Jaccottet

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of BITTER GRASS by Gëzim Hajdari

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of TRACING THE UNSPOKEN by Milan Šelj

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of PIXEL by Krisztina Tóth

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of BLUEPRINT by Theresia Enzensberger

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of TIDAL EVENTS. SELECTED POEMS by Mária Ferenčuhová

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of HAVING NEVER MET by Inga Pizāne

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of GAMES WITH GRETA & OTHER STORIES by Suzana Tratnik

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of HYDRA’S HEADS by Nora Gomringer

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of WHATEVER THE NAME by Pierre Lepori

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE GALLOPING HOUR: FRENCH POEMS by Alejandra Pizarnik

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of CARAVAN LULLABIES by Ilzė Butkutė

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of SEVEN STONES by Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE GREEN CROW by Krīstine Ulberga

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE GREAT PLAN B by Justyna Bargielska

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of NIEWAŻKOŚĆ by Julia Fiedorczuk

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of THE ANGELS DIE by Yasmina Khadra

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of LULLABY FOR A HANGED MAN by Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of QUIET FLOWS THE UNA by Faruk Šehić

Read Anna Blasiak’s #‎RivetingReview of DYGOT by Jakub Małecki

Category: The Austrian RiveterApril 2023 - The Austrian RiveterReviewsThe Riveter


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *