Synopsis by Mark Deming
Svetlana Geier is well respected in European literary circles as a gifted translator who has helped create excellent German editions of the works of the great Russian authors, and has won particular acclaim for her translations of Dostoyevsky's major novels, which she calls "the five elephants." While Geier admires the work of Russia's literary tradition, her personal relationship with the nation has been a good bit trickier; Geier was born in Kiev, but her father, an intellectual, found himself on the wrong side of Stalin's underlings and spent over a year being tortured by the KGB. During World War II, Geier's fluency in German earned her a good job working for Nazi forces occupying Kiev, but she also witnessed firsthand the pogroms against Russian Jews and Axis violence against Russian civilians. All these years later, Geier lives and works in Germany, and has an uneasy relationship with the land of her birth and her adopted homeland, having seen the best and worst in the history of both nations. Filmmaker Vadim Jendreyko offers a profile of Svetlana Geier that focuses both on her literary work and her often harrowing life story in The Woman With the 5 Elephants (aka Die Frau Mit den 5 Elefanten), a documentary which was an official selection at the 2010 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
birthplace, captive, German-language, legacy, literature, Nazi, Russian [nationality], translator, Ukraine