Vertiginous Links for April 2013
Sebald was always asking us to reflect on how we access the past, how we rescue the dead, and how the writer performs that real, but necessarily fictional, reclamation. – James Wood
The Guardian has published an except from the much awaited publication of A Place in the Country, Jo Catling’s English translation of W.G. Sebald’s Logis in einem Landhaus (1998), an important collection of essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp. (The Guardian‘s excerpt is drawn from the section on Rousseau.) Here’s an excerpt from their excerpt.
The room I took at the hotel looked out on the south side of the building, directly adjacent to the two rooms which Jean-Jacques Rousseau occupied when, in September 1765, exactly 200 years before my first sight of the island from the top of the Schattenrain, he found refuge here, at least until the Berne Petit Conseil drove him out from even this last outpost of his native land…At any rate, in the few days I spent on the island – during which time I passed not a few hours sitting by the window in the Rousseau room – among the tourists who come over to the island on a day trip for a stroll or a bite to eat, only two strayed into this room with its sparse furnishings – a settee, a bed, a table and a chair – and even those two, evidently disappointed at how little there was to see, soon left again. Not one of them bent down to look at the glass display case to try to decipher Rousseau’s handwriting, nor noticed the way that the bleached deal floorboards, almost two feet wide, are so worn down in the middle of the room as to form a shallow depression, nor that in places the knots in the wood protrude by almost an inch. No one ran a hand over the stone basin worn smooth by age in the antechamber, or noticed the smell of soot which still lingers in the fireplace, nor paused to look out of the window with its view across the orchard and a meadow to the island’s southern shore.
In conjunction with this excerpt, the Guardian also ran an article in which James Wood, Iain Sinclair, Robert Macfarlane and Will Self “reflect on what his work means to them.” The comments posted by Guardian readers make for very interesting reading, as well. A Place in the Country, is scheduled for release May 2 of this year and is available for pre-order from various book sites in England. It will also be available for Kindle then.