" If language may be regarded as an old city full of streets and squares, nooks and crannies, with some quarters dating from far back in time while others have been torn down, cleaned up and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching further and further into the surrounding country ..."
Thursday, 3 February 2011
Sebald, translation, photography
A while ago I had a half-formed idea about trying to put together a submission to the Translation issue of Qarrtsiluni (which is now turning out to be an absolutely spellbinding issue, a magical stream of exceptional small works). I'd come upon this poor quality but interesting photo I took a long time ago of a passer-by doubly reflected in a double-glazed office window. I was thinking about how this image - two parallel versions -the same, but not the same - evoked the idea of an original and its translation. Also about why photography in general puts me in mind of translation and vice versa - something about them both relating to the essence and the image and their changing places. I quickly realised that I'd need to think about this for several years before I had anything coherent to say. The notion continues to simmer, though, and came back to a rolling boil when I saw the photo sequence that Kate Griffin, co-director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, had put together on her terrific photo blog, in conjunction with a quotation from W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, in time for this year's annual Sebald Lecture and literary translation prizes.