Malvine by Greta Hofmann Nemiroff
2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist
Greta Hofmann Nemiroff has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Malvine.
The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 24. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.
Greta Hofmann Nemiroff was born in Montreal in 1937. She started writing at age seven and never stopped. She worked as a teacher and chair at Concordia University, Vanier College and Dawson College. She is a lifelong activist and taught the first university women's studies course in Canada in 1970. She is the author of two books and the editor of over 10 books, and has published numerous stories and articles in English and French. She loved teaching and reluctantly retired after 58 years. She is a mother to three adults, grandmother to three teenagers and a friend to many.
Entry in five-ish words
"Navigating a life, in hindsight."
The story's source of inspiration
"As a grandmother, I am aware of how important a figure one can be in children's lives. Malvine is an early chapter from the memoir I am writing. I want to capture the texture of how it was as an 'immigrant kid' in Montreal during the Second World War, how can I reconcile the fear and constantly reported violence of the distant war that preoccupied and terrified the adults in my life with the comfort of daily life in our family.
"Every day at 6 p.m. as we gathered for the news around the tall wood and cloth radio that looked like a temple, I tried to decode what I heard. Meanwhile I enjoyed and felt safe within the Viennese nostalgia that warmed the domestic life of our home. These memories have stayed alive in me over varied experiences of my life, and they have profoundly informed my world view. Like many memoir writers, I want to get it right and pass it on."
In 1937 my grandmother, Malvine Iranyi, left Vienna to attend my birth in Montreal. Soon it became too dangerous for her to return; Nazi Germany annexed Austria and we were Jews. Until her death seven years later, she was the centre of my life. I never called her 'Oma' or 'Grossmutter,' the German words for 'grandmother.' I called her 'Malvine' which I thought meant 'Grandmother.'
I reveled in the comfort of snuggling with her, wrapped in a mauve shawl in the big chair by her window. Malvine was fragrant from soap and the chamomile with which she washed her hair. Outside, an ice storm raged: encased in ice, the branches and twigs on the poplar trees surrounding our house glimmered and creaked in the wind. I felt safe, happy to be there in her arms, in that shawl, on that chair.
The winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.