Friday, May 6, 2011


W.G. Sebald & Jan Peter Tripp



Pliny says

that elephants are

       intelligent & righteous

revere the stars

& worship the sun

& the moon


This is one of a series of Micropoems (33) in this slim volume by W.G. Sebald, each one is accompanied by a pair of eyes which are actually photo realistic lithographs created by Jan Peter Tripp. Some of the individuals featured are William Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, Rembrandt, Francis Bacon and Javier Marias plus various other people including Sebald himself.

Most of these poems are around the 20 word mark or less and although they do not have a direct relationship to the picture, act as a dialogue between the two, with some offering a possible greater clarity to us as onlookers than others, for example these are the eyes of Proust, and the poem featured is

Marcel Proust


But the time

in which darkness


that time one

does not see


Whilst others appear  to be merely chance, leaving you to form your own connections, your own dialogue with the images and lines on the page, like some interloper into the hermetic world of this small book.borges

There is also a great deal of  information here; the translator is Michael Hamburger, a poet in his own right,  who provides a translators note as an introduction to the work.

This is followed by fellow poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s  contribution, two  poems - one concerning Sebald the other Tripp.

Then almost like a bookend there is an  essay on the work of the artist, Jan Peter Tripp by Andrea Kohler



Which brings us nicely to the artist. Sebald has described Jan Peter Tripp's art as taking realism to an almost unimaginable extreme. In an essay about Tripp's work, Sebald talked of 'the role of the observer and the observed objects being reversed. Personally my first look whilst flipping through these poems and what I presumed were photographs,when the realisation dawned that these weren’t,that they had been created by the artist’s own hands, well I didn’t know what to think, I scrutinised them, I tried to sneak up on them, quickly casting glances, when I thought they weren’t looking. I failed and went back to the words.

In deepest sleep

a Polish mechanic

came & for a

thousand silver dollars made me

a new perfectly

functioning head.


Some books let you in from the turning of the title page, others leave you as though on the doorstep, a foot in the door, not sure of welcome, you’re going to have to earn your entrance. Unrecounted is definitely one of the latter, you’ll peruse the images and accompanying poems, eyes gliding off the eyes on the page to the words and back again, making connections, trying to  find routes into its dialogue but this is ideolectic, the patterns here are those of an individual, there probably are reference points, but like all reference points, they act as signposts to something - not the thing itself.

It is

as though I lay

under a low

sky and breathed

through a needle’s eye.


W.G. Sebald

Jan Peter Tripp

Hans Magnus Enzenberger

Michael Hamburger


Anonymous said...

I heard this book ,i loved sebald novels ,this sounds fun piece by him ,think he did some other collaborative pieces ,all the best stu

Rise said...

Poetry is one side of Sebald I have yet to explore. The combination of the short poem and the image is a fascinating concept. Do we lose ourselves in the depths of those eyes? Do we read the words to escape the penetrating gaze? Through your experience of seeing these words and images, which you've shared with us, do we not then "see" also through what you have seen?

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Stu, he did another Artist collaboration book titled "For Years Now" with Tess Jaray, that i'm aware of, & there appears to be some crossover between the two.

Hello Rise, that's the problem with interpreting any work, it becomes to some extent seeing through my eyes adding another layer of gauze, lens to the experience.

gina said...

I'm a bit blown away by the lithographs. They are hyper-realistic.

I think I need to read Sebald. Any recommendations for where to start?

@parridhlantern said...

@gina: Hi, the top book is The Rings of Saturn, others are Vertigo, Camp Santo Austerlitz, plus a few others, not read any but are on my moochlist. Check Stu(winstonsdad) he's a big fan.

@parridhlantern said...

@gina: ps. The Lithographs, very intense the way they stare.

Em said...

It sounds like a different experience. These eyes would nearly make me feel uncomfortable.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Em, yes they do make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but on the opposite page you have a micro-poem to ponder

Novroz said...

This micro poem sounds like tanka and haiku.
Those poems are great and strong. I wish I could make something like that.
Thank you for sharing this Parish.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Novroz, thanks for your comments & I think that he used those as the inspiration for his own pieces, which he termed micro-poems.

Wilf Jones said...

I think it is important for you all to know that as well as being a great writer he had a fantastic moustache and preferred to be called Max.
It does it for me.

@parridhlantern said...

@Wilf Jones: Hi, yes knew about the Tache, on the cover of the book he's sporting it, but as the pictures feature eyes I didn't mentioned it.I now know this was a fault on my part & I should have shared this knowledge with people visiting this blog. As a fundamental part of the man all would have passed through the appendage & thus was relevant to this piece.I thank you for bringing this remiss to my attention.

Tom Cunliffe said...

Fascinating - as a Sebald "fan", I have never heard of this book. The poems are thought provoking in the same way as Haiku are.

Reading it is obviously a slightly meditative act - jumping off points for your own thoughts perhaps.

An interesting review

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Tom, that's a good point, using this as a jumping off point.