Monday, May 14, 2012

back to front

The dry cleaner who wears the T-Shirt inside out that says "kcaB ot eht erutuF" || School teachers suffer a good deal from having to listen to this sort of twaddle from proud parents, but they usually get their own back when the time comes to write their end-of-year reports. If I were a teacher, I would cook up some real scorchers for the children of the doting parents. "Your son Maximilian," I would write, "is a total wash-out. I hope you have a family business you can push him into when he leaves school because he sure as heck won't get a job anywhere else." Or, if I were feeling lyrical that day, I might write, "It is a curious truth that grasshoppers have their hearing organs in the sides of their abdomen. Your daughter, Vanessa, judging by what she's learnt this term, has no hearing organs at all." (R. Dahl quoted in M. Talbot "The Candy Man", The New Yorker, July 11, 2005, p.94) || His childhood had been overshadowed by sickness. However, despite the threat of scrofula and recurrent bouts of fever, he had succeeded in clearing the hurdle of adolescence with the aid of good nursing and fresh air; and after this his nerves had rallied, had overcome the languor and lethargy of chlorosis, and had brought his body to its full physical development. (J.-K. Huysmans, Against Nature, Penguin, 1959, p.18) || Auch zu seinen immer wieder gescheiterteten Versuchen, in der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft Fuß zu fassen, hat er weder kritisch, die soziale Reglementierung betreffend, noch selbstkritisch Stellung genommen. Obschon es zeitweilig scheinen mochte, als habe er sich von den Beschränkungen seiner im Verhältnis zu den kulturtragenden Schichten unterprivilegierten Herkunft emanzipiert, gelang es ihm nie, das Gespenst der Verarmung und Deklassierung zu bannen [...] || On his continually failing attempts to enter bourgeois society he never commented, neither critically on the rules of society, nor self-critically. Although it may have appeared intermittently as if he had emancipated himself from the limitations of a descent that was underprivileged in relation to the upper cultural strata, he never managed to banish the spectre of impoverishment and decline of social standing. (WG Sebald, "Bis an den Rand der Natur: Versuch über Stifter" in Die Beschreibung des Unglücks, Fischer, 2003, p.19, transl. mine)


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