Monday, February 4, 2013

Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1966. In 1967 America started to see her poetry translated into English and published in books, most notably the FSG collections O The Chimneys and The Seeker. Both these collections held part of Sachs’ Glowing Enigmas translated by Michael Hamburger. In those two volumes is where I fell in love with Nelly Sachs. I found a sensitivity I hadn’t seen anywhere other than in Rilke, and a compassion I haven’t found anywhere else. Her Glowing Enigmas is a beautiful testimony of persecution and loss elevated to the highest art. It has had the profoundest effect on me. It has been a simple instructional on seriousness, and, also, a complex and mysterious example of being alive. I have always wished (ever since I bought that first darkly browned paperback) that Glowing Enigmas would be published in one volume so I could read it as I waited for the bus. I wanted an ease of understanding. I wanted to be able to refer back to page one when reading section four without having to lug an additional volume.

What I didn’t know is that it would take Tavern Books to publish Glowing Enigmas in its entirety. And Friday was the day. The books showed up packed in boxes stacked on a pallet. Over the next week, we will be sending Sachs’ book out for review, and it will be available for purchase in April. Not many things in the book world have made me as happy as seeing Glowing Enigmas in a form easy to carry. William Butler Yeats once wrote about Rabindranath Tagore “I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on top of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me.” Here’s to public transportation and not being afraid to read in public.

Carl Adamshick

Nelly Sachs' Glowing Enigmas will be available in paperback and hardcover editions through the Tavern Books website April 2, 2013. 

Glowing Enigmas
by Nelly Sachs
Translated from the Germa
by Michael Hamburger
Publication date: April 2, 2013
120 pages / 5.5 x 7.5
$17.00 (pb) / $30.00 (hc)
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-22-2 (pb)
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-27-7 (hc) 

Nelly Sachs, winner of the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. She fled the Nazis on May 16, 1940, and took refuge in Sweden, where she was granted asylum. Her career as a poet started only after her emigration, when she was nearly fifty years old. Despite her relatively short writing career and constant struggles with mental illness, Sachs’ body of poetry is one of the essential artistic testimonies of the twentieth century. She died in Sweden on May 12, 1970.

Michael Hamburger
was born in Berlin in 1924 to a German-Jewish family that emigrated to England in 1933. He served as an infantryman from 1943 to 1947, and read Modern Languages at Oxford. After an academic career in England and America, he settled in Suffolk. In addition to his international  renown as a poet and scholar, Hamburger is regarded as one of the great literary translators of his generation. Among the numerous authors he translated into English are Charles Baudelaire, Gottfried Benn, Bertolt Brecht, Paul Celan, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, W. G. Sebald, and Georg Trakl. His acclaimed critical study The Truth of Poetry was published in 1968. His Collected Poems (Anvil, 1995), drawing on some twenty earlier books, has been followed by five more. His final book of poems, Circling the Square, was published by Anvil in 2007, the year of his death.