Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Amateur Anthropology

Missed this by a couple days, but Robert Birnbaum's latest interview is with Eva Hoffman (Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, Exit Into History, Stetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews, and After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Legacy of the Holocaust). Another enjoyable read, but he prefaces the interview with an earlier excerpt from Hoffman that introduces the literary set to the pervasiveness of culture in daily life:

In an interview in 2000, Eva Hoffman observed, “I think every immigrant becomes a kind of amateur anthropologist—you do notice things about the culture or the world that you come into that people who grow up in it, who are very embedded in it, simply don't notice. I think we all know it from going to a foreign place. And at first you notice the surface things, the surface differences. And gradually you start noticing the deeper differences. And very gradually you start with understanding the inner life of the culture, the life of those both large and very intimate values. It was a surprisingly long process is what I can say.” A process that seems not to have an end point, as the conversation below exhibits.

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