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Posts from the ‘Beschreibung des Unglucks’ Category

Awaiting New Sebald Books 2010-2012

An eagle-eyed reader of Vertigo has noticed that the website of Professor Jo Catling at the University of East Anglia lists her as the translator of three of the last untranslated texts by her former colleague W.G. Sebald.  It appears she is translating Logis in einem Landhaus (which will appear in English as A Place in the Country, to be published by Hamish Hamilton/ Random House in 2010) and Beschreibung des Unglücks and Unheimliche Heimat (which apparently will appear combined as Silent Catastrophes, to be published by the same publisher in 2012).

I am particularly looking forward to the translation of Logis in einem Landhaus, a book of essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp.  So far, only the essays on Tripp and Walser have been published in English.  Undoubtedly influenced by his experiments with embedded photographs in his books of fiction, Sebald inserted images of all types into each of the essays in Logis in Einem Landhaus: 18th century calendar pages, photographs of books, reproductions of historic etchings and drawings, a dozen portraits of the author Robert Walser at various stages of his life along with samples of his handwriting, examples of Jan Peter Tripp’s etchings, and, in a typically Sebaldian move, an enigmatic, grainy photograph of a hot air balloon hovering over treetops. It will be interesting to see how the English language publisher deals with the fact that each of the six essays receives a beautifully-printed large foldout image in full color in the original German edition.

This will leave on two very early Sebald books still untranslated: Carl Sternheim: Kritiker und Opfer der Wilhelminischen Ära (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1969) and his Ph.D. dissertation Der Mythus der Zerstörung im Werk Döblins (Stuttgart: Klett, 1980).

We still anxiously await the now overdue publication that Prof. Catling is co-editing with Richard Hibbitt, Saturn’s Moons: A W. G. Sebald Handbook (Oxford: Legenda).  This is available for pre-order in several locations online.  Here’s part of the publisher’s advance blurb:

Saturns Moons: a W. G. Sebald Handbook brings together in one volume a wealth of new critical and visual material on Sebalds life and works, encompassing a range of first-hand accounts by his former colleagues and students. The contributions cover various phases and facets of the writers career, including Sebald as teacher, as founder of the British Centre for Literary Translation at UEA, and as scholar and critic. Lavishly illustrated, the Handbook contains definitive primary and secondary bibliographies, details of audiovisual material and interviews, and a catalogue of Sebald’s library. Contributors include Jo Catling, Florian Radvan, Clive Scott, Richard Sheppard, Gordon Turner and Ulrich von Bülow.

Untranslated Works by W.G. Sebald

Several of W.G. Sebald’s earliest monographs deal with German-language literature and authors and are extremely difficult to find in first editions. His MA thesis Carl Sternheim: Kritiker und Opfer der Wilhelminischen Ära (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1969) (crudely translated as “Carl Sternheim: Critic and Victim of the Kaiser Wilhelm II Era”) and his Ph.D. dissertation Der Mythus der Zerstörung im Werk Döblins (Stuttgart: Klett, 1980) (loosely translated as The Mythos of Destruction in the Work of Döblins) were monographs on single authors. Sternheim (1878-1942) was a German novelist and dramatist, while Döblin (1878-1957) made his name as a German expressionist writer and is most remembered for his sprawling novel Berlin Alexanderplatz.

In 1985, the Austrian publisher Residenz Verlag published Sebald’s Die Beschreibung des Unglücks: Zur österreichischen Literature von Stifter bis Handke, an anthology of previously published essays from 1972 through 1985. The title might loosely be translated as Describing Disaster: On Austrian Literature from Stifter to Handke (even though one author discussed – Kafka – can hardly be considered Austrian). It included essays on Adalbert Stifter, Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Ernst Herbeck, and Gerhard Roth. Only the essay on Hofmannsthal had not been published earlier.

Sebald Beschreibung

Unheimliche Heimat: Essays zur österreichischen Literatur (a loose translation might be Uneasy Home: Essays on Austrian Literature) was published in 1991, also by Residenz Verlag. It, too, is an anthology of previously published essays from 1976 through 1989 on Charles Sealsfield, Karl Emil Franzos, Peter Altenberg, Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, Leopold Kompert, Hermann Broch, Jean Améry, Gerhard Roth, and Peter Handke. Only the essay on Handke had not been not published earlier. The first edition is less elegant than the earlier volume by Residenz Verlag, being bound in bright orange boards with a somewhat bolder typeface used on the black-stamped spine. The simple dust jacket is orange and brown.

Since none of these titles have yet been translated into English, the only way a non-German reader can sample these early critical writings is to seek out the two essays on Kafka, both of which are on The Castle and have been published in English-language sources. The essay from Die Beschreibung des Unglücks,The Undiscover’d Country: The Death Motif in Kafka’s The Castle, appeared in the Journal of European Studies (2), 1972, while the essay from Unheimliche Heimat,The Law of Ignominy: Authority, Messianism and Exile in The Castle, can be found in the anthology On Kafka – Semi-Centenary Perspectives, edited by Franz Kuna (London: Paul Elek, 1976). Kuna was Sebald’s colleague on the Department of European Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Logis in Einem Landhaus
The final work by Sebald that remains untranslated is Logis in einem Landhaus (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1998). The volume includes essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp. Undoubtedly influenced by his earlier forays into fiction – Die Ausgewanderten (1992) and Die Ringe des Saturn (1995) – Sebald inserts images of all types into each of the essays in Logis in Einem Landhaus. Images include 18th century calendar pages, photographs of books, reproductions of historic etchings and drawings, a dozen portraits of the author Robert Walser at various stages of his life along with samples of his handwriting, examples of Jan Peter Tripp’s extraordinary contemporary etchings, and, in a typically Sebaldian move, an enigmatic, grainy photograph of a hot air balloon hovering over treetops. Furthermore, each of the six essays receives a large foldout image in full color. The only essay from Logis in Einem Landhaus to have appeared so far in English is the one on artist Jan Peter Tripp, which is included in the British and American editions of Unrecounted, the book on which Sebald and Tripp collaborated. The essay, originally titled Wie Tag und Nacht: über die Bilder Jan Peter Tripps, appears as Day and Night, Chalk and Cheese: On the Pictures of Jan Peter Tripp. It deals with trompe l’oeil, memory, and other Sebaldian subjects.This is the first book put out by Sebald’s new German publisher Carl Hanser Verlag and it is a beautiful production. It is bound in a dark, almost wasabi green cloth with a maroon and gold-stamped title on the spine.