Modern Languages

Special Collection: Reading between the Bloodlines: Reflections on the German-Language Family Story

Modern Languages Open recently published a German Special Collection which considers German-language family novels.

The guest editors of this special edition have selected “Writing as Return: A Commentary on Doron Ravinovici’s ‘Nach Wilna” by Todd Herzog and Hillary Hope Herzog as a particularly influential piece.

The article is available to read open access here.

When asked to describe their paper, and highlight its importance within the collection, the authors stated the following:

Doron Rabinovici is one of the most interesting and versatile writers at work in Austria today. He has written short stories and long novels, witty essays and profound philosophical reflections, an academic history and even an illustrated children’s book. And now, with “Nach Wilna,” we can add travel writer to his long list of authorial credits.

“Nach Wilna” is the story of a family trip to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius that Rabinovici undertook with his brother and his parents in the summer of 2011. Rabinovici’s mother, Schoschana, had grown up in Vilnius before the Second World War, survived the Holocaust, and emigrated first to Israel and later to Austria. Her father did not escape and, like most of Vilnius’ Jewish population, was murdered by the Nazis. Rabinovici’s sensitive and thoughtful tale of this trip through space, time, and memory weaves together family stories, historical periods, and different texts in an intricately non-linear manner that captures the range of conflicting thoughts and emotions that the family felt on their trip.

In this text, as in all of his works, Doron Rabinovici the academic historian (who holds a PhD in History from the University of Vienna) and Doron Rabinovici the writer (one of the most celebrated and accomplished of his generation) work hand-in-hand to tell a gripping and touching narrative that is also a meditation on the interconnections of the past and the present and a reflection on the ways in which families and histories intersect to form constantly shifting identities.

In the special collection “Reading between the Bloodlines: Reflections on the German-Language Family Story” you can read Rabinovici’s gripping tale in its original German; an exclusive, candid interview with Rabinovici conducted at Vienna’s Café Corb about his work, his family, and his thoughts on what it means to be a Jew in Austria; and an analysis of these texts that argues that “Nach Wilna” is not only a brilliant travel narrative, a sensitive meditation on family memories, and a thoughtful analysis of complex histories, but is ultimately a declaration of why Rabinvoici writes, and why his writings—be they children’s books, novels, travel stories, or academic histories—matter.