SEBALD AND PERSONAL MEMORY:BY STEVEN BENSON(THAT’S ME!)

“For how hard it is

to understand the landscape

as you pass in  a train

from here to there

and mutely it

watches you vanish”

(Sebald, “Across the Land and Water”, collection, trans Galbraith,2011)

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

I bought “after Nature”(Sebald’s epic poem, in three sections, prepared for publication in 1988, trans Michael Hamburger) in Grasmere, Lake District, in 2009. Sometimes, when falling asleep, I can bear to remember this place; other times, I cannot bear it.We vanish INTO our own memories  and sometimes AWAY FROM them: they elude us sometimes or we NEED them to elude us (to protect ourselves/ myself).

Of course, speaking LESS personally, Sebald is (as early as his student years in the 1960s)commenting on Germany’s convenient and shameful collective memory loss after the Second World War; which was one of his deepest pre-occupations and why he rarely returned to Germany and was forever an emmigrant, in the manner of one of his own narratorial creations. This is evidenced by “Somewhere”(In the “Year before Last” section of “Across Land and water”p.135), which refers to the Turkenfeld poem, Turkenfeld being a subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp; here the purportedly idyllic nature description covers over  the place’s  story of horror(thanks to Iain Galbraith, in his excellent introduction to “Across land and Water” for this elucidation); in the same way that the collective consciousness of Germany in the late 40s and the 50s covered over the memories of genocide.

So, when we read Sebald, be it his prose-fiction of poetry, we are plunged into , and sometimes enmired in, firstly, collective cultural memory; and, secondly,our own PERSONAL memories, because , as Galbraith again points out(in “Death of the Author” style), we (re)build our OWN personal version of the poem, a process, he himself says, mirroring that of translation.So, our personal (to SOME extent, because it is rewarding and, indeed, necessary, to try and elucidate Sebald’s OWN “objective”/objective INTENDED meanings)reconstruction and re-envisionning of the works in question, in the light of our OWN experiences,is an integral part of the reading(I stress, this is not at all to minimise the fact that neither I, nor Sebald himself,went throught the horrors he felt he could only obliquely refer to{see his interview with Michael Silverblatt, available on You-Tube, recorded 8 days before his untimely death}). So, in the light of the second point,personal, subjective re-visualization of the meaning to US(as unique individuals)- I return to “After Nature”, which I am now going to finish, inspired by Galbraith’s pointing out that a lot of the poems which were retained , and, indeed, some of those taken out as too similar,were precursors of the later longer poem. I do this with some trepidation about what memories it will recall to me; memories embedded in the landscape and village where I bought the book,Grasmere; happy but disturbing memories. Memories I am ineffably glad I still have, but which can be painful to re-live.

So, there are the landscapes of PERSONAL memory, where the EXTERNAL landscape mirrors one’s own INTERIOR memories/psychology; a sort of PSYCHOgeography again, mediated by books and memories: Wordsworth remembering chilhood in Grasmere, myself remembering Grasmere experiences and Sebald himself ritorno in patria (in the last sections of “After Nature” and “the Emmigrants”, and the disturbing memories there catalyzed).Layers within layers.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

We are ALL on a

Train journey

Where the

Landscape

Of our

Memories

Recedes

Quietly

Behind us.

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Published by: decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)

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