Holocaust Memorial Day: Personal Memories of Difficult Truths

Using the diary of Polish-Jewish teenager Renia Spiegel as inspiration, artist and author Edmund de Waal explores the ability of personal stories to tell difficult truths.



Monday 27 January 2020, 7.00 - 8.30 PM

Knowledge Centre

The British Library

96 Euston Road





The ability of personal stories to tell difficult truths

Using the diary of Polish-Jewish teenager Renia Spiegel as inspiration, artist and author Edmund de Waal explores the ability of personal stories to tell difficult truths, joined by translators Marta Dziurosz and Anna Blasiak, and chaired by writer Lisa Appignanesi.

Renia Spiegel was born in eastern Poland in 1924. In January 1939 she began to write a diary. When war broke out she and her sister were living with her grandparents. Separated from her mother by the war, the next few years saw her living under first Soviet, then Nazi occupation, and the creation of the ghetto. In the summer of 1942, Renia was forced into hiding to escape the liquidation of the ghetto. A few days later, her hiding place was discovered and she was shot; she was just eighteen.  Her dream was to become a poet.  Renia’s secret diary was discovered after seventy years and has recently been published.

Molly Rosenberg, director of The Royal Society of Literature, has worked at the RSL for 10 years and, as Director, oversees the Society’s business and creative strategy. She is thrilled to be working towards the RSL’s 2020 bicentenary with RSL staff and trustees on a number of new programmes, showing how much Literature Matters. Molly has previously worked at the Royal Opera House and Southbank Centre, and as an independent researcher. She holds an MPhil in Irish Writing from Trinity College Dublin and is currently completing her PhD at King’s College London, where her doctoral thesis examines the relationship between contemporary Irish poetry, nation, and the poetics of the trace.

Anna Blasiak is a poet, translator and literature co-ordinator of the European Literature Network. She has translated over 40 books from English into Polish and some fiction and poetry from Polish into English. In addition to her book-length translations, her work has been published in Best European Fiction 2015AsymptoteThe GuardianB O D Y LiteratureModern Poetry in Translation and York Literary Review. Anna writes poetry in Polish and in English (Off_PressWomen Online Writing, Exiled Ink, The Blue Nib, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Queer Riveter and Modern Poetry in Translation). She has worked in museums and a radio station, run magazines, written on art, film and theatre.

Marta Dziurosz is a Polish literary translator and interpreter, and a literary curator. She was Free Word Centre's Translator in Residence (2015-16), is a member of the Translators Association committee and works at the publishing house Pan Macmillan. Her translations and other writing have been published in print and online by Penguin Random House, Vallentine Mitchell, Asymptote, The New Statesman, Words Without Borders and The Linguist, among others. She is a finalist of the 2019 Jasmine Awards.

Edmund de Waal is an artist who writes. Much of his work is around the contingency of memory: bringing particular histories of loss and exile into renewed life. He continually investigates themes of diaspora, memorial, materiality and the colour white with his interventions and artworks made for diverse spaces and museums worldwide. Edmund is also renowned for his bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010), which won many literary prizes including the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Biography Award and has been translated into over 30 languages.

In partnership with The Polish Cultural Institute in London

Polish Cultural Institute
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