About Liliane Atlan

The highly-esteemed French Holocaust writer Liliane Atlan (1923-2011) published extensively in theatre, poetry, fiction, and hybrid forms. The five poems in the attached packet are from her final book, As One Would Chisel Diamonds, originally published in Paris in 2000 by L’Harmattan, as Peuples d’argile, Forets d’etoiles.

Born Liliane Cohen in Montpellier, Atlan spent most of her life in Paris. Just before the Occupation, Liliane and her sister were sent into hiding. She later attended the Gilbert Bloch d’Orsay school founded in Paris for youths traumatized by the Shoah, where she studied Talmud, Torah, mystical texts, as well as Jewish history. Her writing is steeped in this body of literature; her French is inflected with Hebrew, Ladino, and Yiddish. While living in Israel after the 1967 war, Atlan co-founded a Jewish-Arab theatre company and was, until she died (in Kfar Saba), active in Jewish-Palestinian peace and cultural initiatives.

Atlan was catapulted into prominence in 1968 when her first play, the surreal Monsieur Fugue, was performed at the Festival d’Avignon (which premiered a number of her later plays). Based on the story of Janusz Korszak, the Polish educator and radio artist who voluntarily accompanied a group of children to Auschwitz, Monsieur Fugue won prizes in Europe and Israel, and is regularly performed. For her body of work, Atlan received the 1999 Prix Mémoire de la Shoah. Among her publishers are Ed. du Minuit, POL, Ed. du Seuil, L’Harmattan. France Culture has broadcast thirteen of Atlan’s plays and several of her prose texts. Her work has been translated, published and performed in Hebrew, German, Japanese and English; every season sees important new productions. She was twice a guest at the University of Iowa International Writers Program, which also did productions. She was active as a feminist and as part of the écriture féminine movement.

For more information, see the Jewish Women’s Archive (jwa.org) and lilianeatlan.com