No Place to Lay One’s Head

November 17, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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Françoise Frenkel was a Polish-born Jewish woman who owned a French-language book shop in Berlin in the 1930s. She was forced to flee after a Nazi raid and spent the war hiding in Vichy France, making several desperate attempts to reach Switzerland where her memoir was eventually published in 1945.

Stephanie Smee

Frenkel passed away in the 1970s. No photographs or letters of hers remain, and she has no living descendants. Her memoir, lost and forgotten, was rediscovered in an attic in 2010 and republished in France, becoming a literary hit.

In 2017, the first English-language edition of the book was published, having been translated by Australian literary translator, Stephanie Smee, a former lawyer who lives in Sydney and who has translated many French and Swedish literary classics into English.

Smee will be a guest of the Shalom | Sydney Jewish Writers Festival (SJWF) at an in conversation event at Woollahra Library in Double Bay on Tuesday, 21st November at 10am. Smee will be interviewed by Dr Ludmila Stern, founder of the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies at UNSW. This will be followed by a book signing.

“I prefer not to know what Françoise Frenkel looked like, nor the events of her post-war life, nor the date of her death…And so her book will live with me forever as a letter from an unknown person, a forgotten piece of mail that you received in error, it seems, but one that you were perhaps destined to be given.” Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano in his preface to Frenkel’s memoir No Place to Lay One’s Head.


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