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Damion Searls discusses his translation of Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl, by Uwe Johnson. Sponsored by The Center for the Art of Translation
October 18, 2018 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
Damion Searls discusses his translation of Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl, by Uwe Johnson. Sponsored by The Center for the Art of Translation.
A landmark of 20th Century literature about New York in the late 1960s, now in English for the first time.
Late in 1967, Uwe Johnson, already one of the most celebrated German novelists of his generation, set out to write a book that would take the form of an entry for every day of the year that lay ahead. The first entry is August 21, 1967, and every subsequent entry is dated the following day, through August 20, 1968. Of course, Johnson had no idea what the year would bring—that was part of the challenge—but he did have his main character: Gesine Cresspahl, a German émigré living on the Upper West Side of New York City and working as a translator for a bank, who is the single mother of a ten-year-old daughter, Marie.
The book tells the story of a year in the life of this little family in relation to the unfolding stories of the year, as winnowed from the pages of The New York Times, of which Gesine is a devoted if wary reader. These stories in turn are overlayed by another: Gesine, born just as Hitler was coming to power, has decided to tell Marie the story of her grandparents’ lives and of her own rural childhood in Nazi Germany.
Anniversaries courts comparison to Joyce’s Ulysses, the book of a day, and to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the book of a lifetime, but it stands apart in its dense polyphonic interplay of voices and stories. It is a novel of private life, a political novel, and a new kind of historical novel, reckoning not only with past history but with history in the making.