Sebald in France

I have to admit that I miss the sounds of my keyboard when I walk away from it for too long. I neglect the keys too often, reassuring myself that I will remember this or that passing thought, come back, and write it down. Today I woke up to brigreen bug on my windowght sunlight shinning through the oblong-shaped angle between my floor and room door. Almost white, blinding me from across the room. I took the light as a sign that I had finally woken-up before 4pm; finally I caught a day. Gradually rising from my red couch I walked over to my French windows, turned the silver-knob, pulled the glass inwards, then leaned out to push the shutters open. The warm cool air hit me and lifted me like a strong glass of fresh mint tea. I breathed in deep and, for the first time in a while, smiled at the view from my window. Good day to take my bike out.

After some coffee and breakfast—1 tablespoon of instant powder coffee mixed with a 1/3 teaspoon sugar along with a petit pain au lait—I sat down to finish reading a book by an author who is “the Einstein of memory.” Throughout the past week I have been reading W.B. Sebald’s novel Vertigo. I have followed this German man on his journey through Italy, southern Germany, his memories, and the memories of others. At times his words bore me to death, but there are moments when he captivates my imagination. The way he renders place and experience, especially the unknown dark corners of memory, is remarkable. He tells less a story of what is remember than what is not remember, or what is never completely known. I would say he narrates the shadows that followed him throughout his life; only through telling the story does he begin to dissolve les ombres. His writing made me think about how memory functions when we do an about-face and chase down the shadows. By nature these semi-opaque entities seem tangible enough if not completely at our mercy to be sculpted as we please. But only the great craftswomen knows well how to manipulate the vellum-like figures. The rest of us, try as we may, only run out of time and misshape them. We try though, and that is what I found so fascinating about Sebald’s work. He danced with the shadows–getting close, but never too close as to chase them away. Conjuring them towards him, he wove them into new memories that were a hybrid of old imaginings and new experiences, crafting an entirely innovating kind of memory.


~ by Em on May 12, 2009.

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