Kobak, Annette

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KOBAK, Annette


Born in London, England; divorced. Education: Attended Cambridge University and University of East Anglia.


Home—Bermondsey, England. Office—The Cut Media Ltd, 5 Bedale Street, London SE1 9AL, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, translator, editor, and broadcaster. The Cut, London, England, editor. Presenter, The Art of Travel, BBC Radio-4.


(Translator) Isabelle Eberhardt, Vagabond (novel), Hogarth (London, England), 1988.

Isabelle: The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1988, Knopf (New York, NY), 1989.

(Author of introduction) The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt, translated by Nina de Voogd, Summersdale (Chichester, England), 2002.

Joe's War: My Father Decoded, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of articles and reviews to New York Times Book Review, Nova, Times Literary Supplement, and Harpers & Queens.


In 1988, author and editor Annette Kobak translated into English the French novel Vagabond and wrote a biography of its author titled Isabelle: The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt. An adventurer who traveled the Middle East dressed as a man, Eberhardt converted to Islam, authored several books, and died at the age of twenty-seven in a flash flood.

Kobak turned to her own life for inspiration in the 2004 book Joe's War: My Father Decoded. This story about Kobak's father stemmed from Kobak's own confusion about growing up with a man who was temperamental, often withdrawn, and slept with a hammer under his pillow even though the family lived in the relatively safe confines of England. Kobak knew little of Joe's life and decided to explore his past, in order, as she writes in her book, "to try to make some sense of my father's silences." In Joe's War, the author recounts the story of her Czechoslovakian-born father, his escape from German-occupied Poland when he was nineteen, and his participation in the Polish army in France. He ended up in London, where he worked in a top-secret unit intercepting Morse code and met his wife. Writing in Kirkus Reviews, one contributor felt that Kobak mistakenly strayed from her strength as a writer when she abandoned the memoir of her father's life in the middle of the book to focus on the historical probe into the problems of Eastern Europe. The reviewer noted, "Her appealing voice, for a time, disappears." Other reviewers believed that Kobak adeptly handled the intersection of memoir and straightforward history. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "the book violates genre boundaries—but it is precisely this lack of affectedness … that makes it such an engrossing and informative work." Vanora Bennet, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, concluded, "Kobak deftly interweaves the story of that optimistic Europe between two Wars with her father's (and her own) personal experiences. She swoops the reader through history."



Kobak, Annette, Joe's War: My Father Decoded, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.


Booklist, February 15, 2004, Frank Sennett, review of Joe's War: My Father Decoded, p. 1021.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Joe's War, p. 70.

Library Journal, February 15, 2004, Daniel K. Blewett, review of Joe's War, p. 141.

New York Times Book Review, June 27, 2004, Sherie Posesorski, review of Joe's War, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, review of Joe's War, p. 71.

Smithsonian, February, 1990, Alan Ryan, review of Isabelle: The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt, p. 152.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), July 9, 2004, Vanora Bennett, review of Joe's War.*