in memory of w.g. sebald (2): one leaves behind one's portrait

Wederom een fragment uit Ariadne's Thread: in Memory of W.G. Sebald van Philippa Comber (p. 215-216):

‘Like many of Max's later protagonists, [Matthias] Grünewald was a loner and a melancholic, of the type that came to be known in German as a Sonderling, an eccentric solitary. According to Claudio Magris, the figure of the Sonderling recurs “time and time again in German literature ... many of the heroes of [E.T.A.] Hoffmann and Jean Paul Richter are Sonderlinge ... all inspired by lacerating nostalgia and methodical rigour. ¹ In this instance, I believe there's an even stronger identification between Max and his protagonist. In the preceding section of the poem [‘As the Snow on the Alps’], he describes a self-portrait by Grünewald, which he had discovered in the library at Erlangen:
... Selbstbildnis eines vierzig

bis fünfzigjährigen Malers.
Immer dieselbe
Sanftmut, dieseble Bürde der
dieseble Unregelmäßigkeit der
Augen, verhängt
und versunken seitwärts ins
Einsame hin.
... a self-portrait ... of a painter aged
to fifty. Always the same

gentleness, the same burden
of grief,
the same irregularity of the eyes,
and sliding sideways down into
No doubt Max would have observed the portrait very closely; at the same time, it seems to be nothing short of a description of himself – down to the details of age, disposition and temperament. It is a passage, I think, to be read alongside the final lines of a poem Max had written some nineteen years before, in 1967:
Man histerläßt sein Porträt
Ohne absicht
One leaves behind one's portrait
Without intent. ³’

¹ uit Claudio Magris' Danube
² uit ‘Wie der Schnee auf den Alpen’ / ‘As the Snow on the Alps’, deel 1 van Nach der Natur / After Nature (Engelse vertaling door Michael Hamburger) (Nederlandse titel Naar de Natuur)
³ uit ‘Giuliettas Geburtstag’ / ‘Giulietta's Birthday’ in Über das Land und das Wassen – Ausgewählte Gedichte 1964-2001 / Across the Land and the Water – Selected Poems 1964-2001 (Engelse vertaling door Iain Galbraith) (nog niet in het Nederlands verschenen)


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