Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spoil 2.04

When an Arts Council dignitary is reported to believe that Britain is on the brink of producing "the greatest art yet created", instinct tells you that things are in a bad way. When the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport chips in with the view that talk of a "Renaissance" comparable with that in Italy in the fifteenth century is "not an overstatement. It's exactly true", suspicions harden. Never trust a man who distinguishes between truth and "exact" truth.
J.C., "NB Lost translations", TLS January 11 2008, p.32



File 2.04

In einer Zeit, in der eine zahlreiche Nachkommenschaft noch die Regel gewesen ist - Adolf Walser, [Roberts] Vater, entstammte einer fünfzehnköpfigen Familie - hat sonderbarerweise keines der acht Geschwister der nächsten Generation ein Kind in die Welt gesetzt, und von den gewissermassen miteinander aussterbenden Walsern hat vielleicht keiner die für eine erfolgreiche Prokreation erforderlichen Voraussetzungen weniger erfüllt als der, wie man in seinem Fall wohl mit Fug sagen kann, immer jungfräulich gebliebene Robert.

In an era when a numerous progeny was still the rule - Adolf Walser, [Robert's] father, descended from a family of fifteen members - oddly, none of the eight siblings of the succeeding generation brought a child into the world and of the Walsers who were becoming exctinct together, as it were, arguably none fulfilled the essential prerequisites for successful procreation less than Robert who, it may justifiably be said, remained virginal.

WG Sebald, "Le promeneur solitaire", in: Logis in einem Landhaus, Fischer, 2003, p.130, transl. mine.

How to be happy

[Herbert] Spencer and the future George Eliot soon got into the habit of accompanying each other to the opera, or taking the sea air together in Broadstairs. When she complimented him on his clear unwrinkled forehead he attributed it to the fact that he was "never puzzled" being blessed with mental abilities that "did not involve that concentrated effort which is commonly accompanied by wrinkling of the brows". [...] Before long, George Eliot concluded that he suffered from "excess of reason", and announced to her friends that "we have agreed that we are not in love with each other".

J. Rée, "How to be happy", TLS November 30 2007, p.26