An extraordinary love story, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Israel, ‘Chasing the King of Hearts’ was translated into English in 2013.
After the deportation of her husband to Auschwitz, Izolda Regenberg, alias Maria Pawlicka, has only one aim: to free him. Her race to beat fate might appear absurd to others – but not to her. In times of war and destruction, she learns to trust herself. Izolda becomes the embodiment of a power of love, and a will to live and survive at all costs and by all means. Izolda is quick to learn that making the sums of money that enable her to send packages to her husband in Auschwitz requires many compromises in times of threat and danger. Her acts are immoral and looked upon with scorn by the novel’s other protagonists. Yet she trusts her own instinct… even when at the end, her beloved husband turns out to have fallen in love with another woman. Towards the end of her life, Izolda winds up in Israel, surrounded by strangers and a language that is foreign to her. Her grand love turns out to have been an illusion that drove her and had its meaning in the time of the Shoah, but one that has no more sense at a time of peace.
Meike Ziervogel comments in his review of the book that although ‘Krall’s terse prose is designed to convey the utter desperation of war, her deft touch evokes hope and a sense of homecoming’. Ziervogel said that this beautiful love story makes the reader weep for mankind.
Chasing the King of Hearts was shortlisted for the prestigious Angelus Central European Literary Award in 2007.
Hanna Krall survived the Second World War hiding in a cupboard. She began her writing career as a prize-winning journalist. Since the early 1980s she has worked as a novelist. Hanna Krall has received numerous Polish and international awards for her books, including the underground Solidarity Prize, the Polish PEN Club Prize and the German Wuerth-Preis for European Literature 2012. Her work has gained widespread international recognition and has been translated into 17 languages.
Krall's main themes revolve around the intertwining of human fates; the stories mostly concern the search for identity and the complicated Polish-Jewish-German relations of the Second World War and the years immediately following the war, including the tragic events of the Polish government pogrom in 1968, often with a deeper background in the history of a given family or locality. Krall uses the techniques of reportage in her fictional or fictionalized writing: ellipsis, the exposition of details that grow into motifs, and authorial remarks. It is characteristic of her to expose the construction and stitching of her own authorial craft, making it appear to be "raw," while emphasizing the interplay of truth and fiction.
Philip Boehm has translated numerous works from German and Polish by writers including Ingeborg Bachmann, Herta Müller and Stefan Chwin. He has received awards from the American Translators Association, the UK Society of Authors, and PEN America.
Chasing the King of Hearts
By Hanna Krall
Translated from Polish by Philip Boehm
Published by Peirene Press
Publication date: September 2013
Source: press relase, Polish Institute in London