|Born||Golda Malka Aufen|
7 June 1907
Chrzanów, Austrian Poland
|Died||21 January 1975 (aged 67)|
Kaléko was born Golda Malka Aufen in Chrzanów, Galicia (now Poland). She was the daughter of Fischel Engel, a merchant, and Rozalia Chaja Reisel Aufen, both of Jewish descent. With the commencement of World War I, her mother moved with her and her sister Lea to Germany; first to Frankfurt, then to Marburg, and in 1918 to Berlin where her parents married in 1922. In 1928, she married the Hebrew teacher Saul Aaron Kaléko. From 1929 on, she published poetry presenting the daily life of the common people in newspapers such as Vossische Zeitung and Berliner Tageblatt.
In her poetry, Kaléko captured the atmosphere of Berlin in the 1930s. She attained fame and frequented places like the "Romanisches Café", where the literary world met, among them Erich Kästner and Kurt Tucholsky. In January 1933, Rowohlt published her first book with poetry Lyrisches Stenogrammheft, which was soon subjected to Nazi censorship, and two years later her second book Das kleine Lesebuch für Große appeared, also with the publisher Rowohlt.
In 1938, Kaléko emigrated to the United States with her second husband, the composer Chemjo Vinaver, and their one-year-old son Steven, who became a writer and theatre personality in adult life. Steven fell ill with pancreatitis while directing a play in Massachusetts, and died in 1968 at the age of 31. While in the U.S., Kaléko lived in several places (New York City and a few months in California) until settling on Minetta Street in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1942. Her fifth-floor walkup apartment Minetta Street was a safe haven she always remembered fondly. Kaléko became the family's breadwinner with odd jobs, including some writing copy for advertisements. The family's hope of a possible career for Chemjo in the film industry was crushed, and they returned to New York after a brief stint in Hollywood. The Schoenhof Verlag in Cambridge, Massachusetts published Kaléko's third book "Verse für Zeitgenossen" in 1945 (German edition in 1958 by Rowohlt Verlag).
In 1956, Kaléko returned to Berlin for the first time. Three years later she was supposed to receive the Fontane prize, which she declined since the former Nazi and member of the Waffen-SS, Hans Egon Holthusen, was a member of the jury.
In 1959, Kaléko moved to West Jerusalem, Israel, since her husband, who was conducting research on Hassidic singing, had better working conditions there. She lacked knowledge of Hebrew and was thus somewhat isolated.
Some of Kaléko's poems were published posthumously, including "Sozusagen grundlos vergnügt", in 1977 in the collection In meinen Träumen läutet es Sturm (In my dreams, a storm is brewing). edited by Gisela Zoch-Westphal, to whom Kaléko had entrusted her unpublished writings.
Various attempts have been made to translate individual poems into English. In March 2010, for the first time, a representative number of Kaléko's poems appeared in English translation in the book 'No matter where I travel, I come to Nowhereland': The poetry of Mascha Kaléko (The University of Vermont, 2010, 112 pages). The author, Andreas Nolte, has selected poems from every phase of the poet's life. His translations follow the original German texts as closely as possible in order to maintain the Kalékoesque content, diction, rhythm, and rhyme. Brief introductions provide additional information on Kaléko's remarkable biography.
From the poem "Mein schönstes Gedicht"
Mein schönstes Gedicht,
My best poem ever?
From the poem "Was man so braucht" (translations: Andreas Nolte):
Man braucht nur eine Insel
One only needs an island
The poem "Pihi":
Vom Vogel Pihi hab ich einst gelesen,
I once read of the Pihi bird,
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