An Inventory of Losses

Judith Schalansky

24.00 

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  • New Directions
  • 2021
  • ISBN 9780811229630
  • 252 Seiten
  • Gebunden
  • 20.7 × 12.5 × 2.3 cm

World history is full of things that have gone astray – willfully destroyed or mislaid over the course of time. In her new book, Judith Schalansky dedicates herself to that which the lost leaves behind: dying echoes and disappearing steps, whispers and legends, apostrophes and phantom pains.

Beginning with objects from nature and art like an incinerated painting of Caspar David Friedrich’s, an extinct species of tiger, a Roman baroque villa, the holy writings of a vanished religion or a sunken island in the Pacific, she presents a panorama of the long lost and disappeared, a panorama which traces the world’s blank spaces together with those within natural and cultural history while opening up areas of knowledge where delivery has failed. The protagonists of these short stories are outsiders: a bizarre old man hoarding the knowledge of humankind in his garden in Tessin, a lunar researcher from Bohemia who gives up all earthly curiosity for a position in the Archive of the Moon, an aged Greta Garbo who dreams of appearing on the silver screen as Dorian Gray, Judith Schalansky’s own father who left the family before she could even form a memory of him. These texts speak about beginnings and endings – and at the same time are an autobiographical trip into a country that no longer exists: childhood, the GDR of the 1980s.

Each of the twelve stories in this collection sketches its own world through a subject-specific language, a world in which the boundaries between presence and absence have disappeared as much as have those between fiction, memoir and essay, while simultaneously questioning the reliability of our individual and collective memories as well as future instruments of transmission. Moreover, every one of the 16-page stories begins and ends with a black page, which, as in a photofit picture, suggests more than depicts the lost. As such, the collection proves itself to be a document of the power of print, the book a more efficacious and long-lasting medium of transmission than any other.

After her Atlas of Remote Islands, in this, her Inventory of Certain Losses, Judith Schalansky once again sounds the spaces between reality and imagination, truth and myth, fact and fiction. The result is a lively evocation of the lost and the remote, which suggests that perhaps the difference between presence and absence is only marginal as long as memory still exists – that, and a literature which reveals just how close preservation and destruction, loss and creation, really are.