The Woman with the 5 Elephants

The red thread

Director's Note

Swetlana Geier has been dealing with the possibilities and limitations of literary translation for more than sixty years. Much of her passion for her work relates to translation loss, the indeterminate area in which there are words in one language for which there is no correspondence in another. To her this is the arena of "translationally erotic instances", here she enters terra incognita and has to take new linguistic paths by drawing on her deep knowledge of Russian and German culture. This creative stance, this enthusiasm for new form informs her personality and her work, and fascinated me from our first meeting onwards. I began to take more and more of an interest in Swetlana Geier’s work as a translator of Dostoyevsky’s great novels, in her method of internalising text and her sensuous handling of language. And through her, Dostoyevsky’s questions about freedom and the relationship between means and end were given concrete and vital form.

“Who am I?” This question is the internal motor of all of the central figures in Dostoyevsky’s work.

In search of an answer, the protagonists fall into internal abysses or turn into murderers, yet beyond disaster always lies self-knowledge, or a step towards it.

Swetlana Geier has been confronted with Stalinism and National Socialism during her life, she left her homeland, the Ukraine, so as to finally find herself in a completely different part of Europe.

During the development of this project it became clear to me that I was once again dealing with the fate of a refugee or emigrant, with a person who has had to find her way between the grindstones of her era.

It is a theme that I do not explicitly search for in my work but one which I repeatedly come upon, one behind which the question of my own identity is concealed: “Who am I?”
 And so the question that drives on Dostoyevsky’s figures is also the internal pivot from which I meet this woman and her activities.