Skip to content

Harvard’s Sebald Collections

Harvard University’s Houghton Library has announced that it has acquired a collection of first editions of W.G. Sebald from its own former Senior Curator Roger Stoddard. Stoddard, often referred to as “legendary” by other book people, apparently has a Sebald bibliography coming out sometime in the near future.

Harvard also has a small archive relating to Michael Hulse’s Sebald translations (MS Eng 1632).  The description of that collection says that it “Includes Sebald’s annotations and corrections of Michael Hulse’s English translations of the former’s novels The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Vertigo. Also includes correspondence between Sebald and Hulse.”


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I spent a few hours with the Sebald/Hulse correspondence at Harvard last year, and it’s very interesting. The personal stuff between the two men is missing too much back-story to make much sense in this correspondence alone, but it’s fascinating material on the sentence level — Sebald’s many, many small corrections, often creating that Sebaldian tone out of the raw marble of non-Sebaldian-sounding English.

    I’ve heard different rumors/rumours over the years about whether Sebald was an impossible author for a translator to work with vs. whether his complaints about Hulse were legitimate. (Not mutually exclusive, I suppose.) Is there a collective wisdom on this question? I haven’t wanted to ask around myself, since it might get pretty personal about living people pretty fast.

    The idea of publishing something about this correspondence headed into the back of my mind at the time; thank you for reminding me. I wonder what venues would be interested, and if Hulse himself has the rights or wants to write about it himself. Didn’t he publish an essay about translating Sebald some years back? Does anyone know where?

    April 10, 2009
  2. martin #

    Yeah I’ve heard the same stories too Damion. The article I think you mean is here:; and here’s the relevant extract:

    “In a different way I have to keep a mental distance from a writer I’ve more recently translated, W.G. Sebald, because there is a wary circuitousness in
    his prose that could only have a destructive influence if you weren’t forever vigilant. It is like a surveyor carefully assessing every inch of
    the ground, knowing that the historical, cultural and psychological structure it will have to bear will be a weighty one. I send my draft translations to Max for comment, since his English is exceptionally accomplished, and the suggestions and amendments he offers frequently astonish me by their dexterity. But equally frequently, when the effect is
    to add lexical weight to a sentence already sufficiently burdened by the melancholy of its insight, I feel the chill of an author’s dark
    single-mindedness raising the hairs on my neck, and I’m reminded of the gap which still yawns between us, no matter how many points of coincidence
    there may be in our understanding of cultures and histories.”

    Reading Sebald’s hitherto unpublished essay on Corsica recently in the Marbach exhibition catalogue, which discusses at length the island’s funerary customs and (sickening) tradition of blood revenge up to the very recent past, I think the issue Hulse touches on will continue to bear on the task of future translators when they tackle works like this – although of course they won’t have the author to deal with!

    April 14, 2009
  3. Gregory Pass #

    Roger Stoddard’s bibliography of W.G. Sebald, mentioned in your posting of April 1, 2009, has recently appeared; see Roger Eliot Stoddard, “Uncollected Authors LXX: W.G. Sebald,” The Book Collector 58 (2009): 517-542.

    January 18, 2010

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: