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Photo-Text Topographies

Photography and the Representation of
Space in W. G. Sebald and Monika Maron
Silke Horstkotte
German, Leipzig

Abstract  This essay considers the role of layout in intermedial photo-texts, argu-

ing that the scrapbooking of visual material and printed text constitutes an integral
aspect to these texts’ rhetoric and semantics. Through a close reading of novels by
W. G. Sebald and Monika Maron, I show how photographic inserts can be used to
connect distant or incommensurate spaces: the represented space inside the photograph; the space of representation (of the photograph itself ); and the extratextual
space of the reader. However, the establishment of such a connection crucially
depends on the imagination of the beholder of photographs, and the more skeptical
photographic readings in Maron’s novel illustrate that photos can also be used to
block off incommensurate times and spaces. The meaningful layout pattern established by both authors is broken up in the English translation of their works, and the
essay closes by considering the problematic nature of translated photo-texts.
Layout and Spatiality

An important, yet often overlooked, aspect of photography in fiction concerns the visual layout of texts that incorporate photographs. Are photographs relegated to a specific section, such as the middle or end of a book,
as in Peter Henisch’s Die kleine Figur meines Vaters (2003 [1975]), or are they
inserted into the body of the text, as in the fiction of W. G. Sebald (1990, 
.  While an article by Noam Elcott (2004) discusses the layout of text and photography in
W. G. Sebald, no systematic study of this crucial issue exists to date.
Poetics Today 29:1 (Spring 2008)  DOI 10.1215/03335372-2007-017
© 2008 by Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics


Poetics Today 29:1

1992, 1995, 2001; English translations 2000, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c)? Do they
take up whole pages, as in Jonathan Safron Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005)? And if not, how is the printed text arranged around the
photograph? Do the photos conform to the typographic frame; are they
narrower or wider? Furthermore, are the images captioned, as in Monika
Maron’s Pavel’s Letters (1999, 2002), or uncaptioned, as again in Sebald?
And if they are, is there any suggestion as to the origin of the captions?
Over and beyond the visual presence of photography in fiction, I suggest,
the semantics and rhetoric of photo-text interactions depend on the precise positioning of photographs in what I call a photo-text topography,
indicating a spatial dimension which the photos introduce into the linearity of verbal narrative.
In the following essay, I will therefore attempt to theorize the selfconscious presentation of a spatial dimension, the representation of space,
and the framing of space in literary photo-texts by analyzing two very distinct photo-text topographies: W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants (1992, 2002b)
and Monika Maron’s Pavel’s Letters (1999, 2002). The essay proceeds in
three steps. It begins by considering the different uses of photographs as
supplementary or as integral elements in an intermedial narration. In a
second step, I show how Sebald systematically exploits the ambiguity of
the photograph between proof of the stories’ authenticity, on the one hand,
and the photographs as part of an elaborate play with interdiscursive
(intertextual, intermedial, and intericonic) allusions, on the other, which
reveals the notion of authenticity to be a hoax. In the third part of the
essay, Sebald’s use of photographs as integral elements in an intermedial
narration is contrasted with Maron’s more antagonistic model of imagetext relations. These contrasting attitudes toward photography, I argue,
are dependent on the photographs’ positioning in layout.
Let me begin by considering the spatial implications of using photographic inserts in a literary text. It has often been observed that photography connects things across time by folding the time of the photograph into
the time of the spectator. For instance, Ulrich Baer (2002: 43, 1) remarks
that (looking at) photography raises the “uncanny impression . . . that a
slice of the past has been shuttled into the present” and may even force
us to “abandon or substantially revise the notion of history and time as
inherently flowing and sequential.” When a photograph is inserted into a
narrative text, however, it may also connect distant or incommensurable 
.  The term “photo text” (without a hyphen) was introduced by Jefferson Hunter (1987) in
order to refer to collaborative work of writers and photographers. I am using the hyphenated expression in a slightly wider sense for all literary texts that include reproduced photographs—regardless of the photos’ provenance.


Representation of Space in W. G. Sebald and Monika Maron


spaces: represented space; the space of representation, i.e., of the photograph itself; and the extratextual space of the reader/spectator. The layering of space involved in photographic representations can thus relate in
different ways to the storyworld evoked in the textual narrative as well as
to the printed text. As I will argue below, this raises questions about the
perception and readability of photography in fiction and about the identity
of the narrative agent(s) responsible for photographic inserts. Especially
when photographic images and printed text are mixed in a scrapbook format (i.e., when photographs are not sectioned off from the narrative) but
both are arranged in a bimedial layout, interplay between visual and verbal discourses abounds, and the formatting of the two parts in relation to
each other becomes crucial for readers’ interpretive processes.
The scrapbooking of printed text and visual material is a relatively
new phenomenon and one that, to my knowledge, has not yet been dealt
with systematically. In theory and practice, photographic and other visual
“illustrations” have traditionally been accorded a strictly subordinate
status to the dominant text (cf., e.g., Boehm 1995, Reulecke 2002); while
more recent integrative theories of image-text relations, such as W. J. T.
Mitchell’s (1994: 83) concept of the “imagetext,” are often preoccupied with
the paragone, or rivalry between the component arts, and have at best only
touched upon the topographic aspect of bimedial artifacts (cf. also Kibédi
Varga 1989, Wagner 1995, 1996). Not surprisingly, in biography and historiography but also in literary photo-texts, reproduced photographs are
often sectioned off from the body of the verbal text, typically on insets
of high-gloss paper. Thus, the photographs in Carol Shields’s The Stone
Diaries (1995) are clearly separated from the verbal narrative, being printed
on separate, unnumbered pages in the middle of the book (between pp. 176
and 177). This arrangement reveals the status of photographs in The Stone
Diaries as supplementary to a dominant narrative: the images add something to the narrative without being themselves integral to it. Similarly,
Mark Z. Danielewski relegates the photographs in his House of Leaves (2000)
to an appendix, again indicating their supplementary status in relation to
the body of the novel.
A more complex case of photo-text interaction is posed by the literary
work of Sebald, which has attracted increasing critical attention over the
past few years (McCulloh 2003, Görner 2003, Long and Whitehead 2004,
Denham and McCulloh 2006). The numerous reproduced photographs
in Sebald’s fiction do not function as supplementary illustrations once the
reader recognizes their integral role in the narrator’s elaborate play with 
.  The term “storyworld” is here borrowed from David Herman (2002).

” The photographs’ nonsupplementary.52 Poetics Today 29:1 interdiscursive—intertextual. photograph. As I will detail below. Sebald can thus be said to treat photography and verbal discourse as equal parts in a bimedial “iconotext”— an integrative genre in which. and printed book pages. the precise location of reproduced photographs crucially determines their semantics as well as their often complex and contradictory interplay with the verbal narrative. Sebald 1992: 108. 2002b: 74). Sebald draws on an unusual mix of scrapbooking materials: besides representations of actual photographs. intermedial. Sebald draws further attention to formal concerns by using layouts that represent bimedial forms: for instance. Noam Elcott (2004: 205) has noted that “more than text or image alone. “the verbal and the visual signs mingle to produce rhetoric that depends on the co-presence of words and images” (my emphasis). Moreover. The hybrid nature .. Sebald also toys with the tripartite structure of the seventeenth-century emblem (with motto/inscriptio. role is also highlighted by a conspicuous lack of corresponding textual commentary: photographs in Sebald’s books are generally uncaptioned and rarely referred to explicitly in the narrative. and therefore autonomous. postcards.” Elizabeth Chaplin (2006: 51) pointed out that this non-captioning has significant consequences for the photographs’ status in relation to the written text: “for when the caption goes. according to Peter Wagner’s (1996: 16) definition. In this play with references and quotations. tickets. handwritten notes. and the increased visual autonomy of both photograph and layout affect the reader’s engagement with and interpretation of the text.g. The Emigrants contains numerous photographic reproductions of paintings. 2002b). Considering Sebald’s visual layouts. as we shall see. by printing a line of narrative underneath a photograph so that it looks like a caption but without being actually set off from the narrative as a conventional caption would be (e. In a recent article on the “convention of captioning. and intericonic—allusions. pictura and subscriptio) at the beginning of the first two stories in the collection. all of which systematically prevent the separation of text and image. “Dr Henry Selwyn” and “Paul Bereyter. both because of the photos’ rapport (or tension) with the text printed around the photograph and because photography and text are often arranged to simulate such bimedial forms as the captioning of newspaper photographs or the seventeenth-century emblem book. In these four stories. their rapport in layout dictates the ambivalent position of photography in Sebald’s oeuvre.” The most startling combinations of visual and verbal material occur in Sebald’s collection The Emigrants (1992. the photographs’ position in layout crucially determines their rhetorical function. written text and layout each take on a new significance in relation to each other.” Moreover.

To borrow from Kibédi Varga’s (1989: 39) “Criteria for Describing Word-and-Image-Relations. i. I suggest that it was the presence of photographic images in The Emigrants.  For such a reading.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. Anderson 2006) and sources have been identified for the diary of Luisa Lanzberg in the fourth story. which was shared by many early readers of The Emigrants. was based on a mistaken understanding of the photograph as evidence. coupled with a mistaken understanding of the photograph as reference to the real.e. as well as the frequent evocation of iconotextual structures like emblems or captioned family albums. nor do his books contain a conventional list of illustrations. which did not take into account the implications of Sebald’s layout. the collection as a whole constitutes a tight mix of fact and fiction. It therefore becomes difficult or even impossible for readers to obtain information about the pictures’ provenance. thus call for an integrative reading that overcomes antagonistic conceptions of imagetext relations. rather than the use of real-world references in the narrative which caused even professional readers like Heinrich Detering (1992) to fall into the trap of a factual reading.” . Although some of Sebald’s characters have real-life counterparts (see Boehnke 2003. I take the lack of factual. so that photography itself is or becomes a medial and mediated fictional discourse (hence its lack of an identifiable source outside the narrative). with complex relations to the verbal text.” photography and text are here in a relation of “interreference”: they are “separated but presented on the same page. Conversely. G. G. Sebald and Monika Maron 53 of many of Sebald’s images. . Cf. see Heinrich Detering’s review (1992). Photography and Layered Space in W. also the discussion about fictional and possible worlds in Ronen 1994 and Doležel 1998. This also means that the photographs are part of the fictional narrative. reference to Sebald’s photographs to indicate that these pictures are supposed to be read and deciphered as autonomous statements within a fictional discourse. Sebald’s The Emigrants Sebald’s photographs are not captioned by an instance outside the narrative.” “they refer to each other. as the illustrations in a biography would be. extranarrative. This is noteworthy because it suggests that the interpretation of the four stories as factual accounts of real biographies. However. .  A concise discussion of degrees of real-world reference can be found in Zipfel 2001. narratologists have pointed out that all fiction relies to some extent on real-world references.. “Max Aurach” (Gasseleder 2005). presenting “real” photographs in “fake” contexts which preclude easy juxtapositions of the fictional and the nonfictional.

see also Boehnke 2003. or is capable of lying. . Thus Stefanie Harris (2001: 380) writes: “Sebald both exploits and denies the documentary status of the photograph. Many Sebald scholars have pointed out that Sebald systematically unsettles readers’ assumptions about the relation of photography and verbal narrative and that the self-conscious questioning of the images’ function within the narrative also undercuts their assumed authenticity and evidentiary connection to the real.’ is precious and must be conserved as a memorial to what has disappeared. as with Uncle Ambros’s calling card (ibid. Sebald uses a variety of representational strategies to ensure that images and text be viewed as a unity. however. he repeatedly reproduces photographs which either contain writing in some form. prompting us to look beyond the simple reading of these photographs as merely enhancing the non-fictional elements of the text and to ask how they might function with and against the language of the text itself in order to communicate a particular relationship to the past.54 Poetics Today 29:1 Kibédi Varga’s terminology is particularly useful in this context because it stresses the internal dynamic of the iconotext. it is important to note that the reproduced photographs in Sebald’s texts are used as part of an elaborate play of intertextual and intermedial allusions. we are never deal. Shaffer 2003. and Weber 2003 as well as my own contributions (Horstkotte 2002. including the simulation of captions and the representation of emblematic structures already mentioned above and analyzed later in this essay. or indeed which depict objects consisting only of writing. But also. It can serve as a corrective to the unreliability of human memory.” I would argue that the contradictory relation comes to the fore when we consider the photos’ placement. 2005a.: 37). and must be subjected to careful scrutiny and interpretation. Within this interdiscursive game. the photos of Uncle Ambros’s diaries (Sebald 1992: 188ff. Hence. Moreover. like the newspaper cutting in “Dr Henry Selwyn” (ibid.). which constantly challenges the reader’s assumptions.: 150).” Similarly. Long 2003. 2005c). Sebald’s photos may be understood as pictures of photographs that quote the original photograph. for instance. 2005b. or which show already intermedial arrangements of photography and text. every image lies. Mark Anderson (2003: 109) reads Sebald’s images in terms of a contradictory logic: “every image.  On the ambivalent relationship of photography and text in Sebald. These examples may suffice to illustrate that it is not always possible to differentiate between photography and text or writing in Sebald’s oeuvre. every ‘reality scrap. Besides such a dismantling of boundaries. since such acts of reference are rarely neat or unambiguous.

. As the protagonist’s Uncle Leo reveals. etc.g. e. the deception involved in a documentary use of photography and the possibility of photographic forgeries are self-consciously introduced through the newspaper photograph (supposedly) documenting a Nazi book burning in the final story. even though the book burning really took place: it was simply too dark to photograph the actual book burning and so a daytime photograph of the location was altered to include a pall of smoke. Sebald and Monika Maron 55 ing with actual photographs in The Emigrants but always with representations of photographs which are already stripped of the contexts in which the images supposedly came to the narrator—the family albums. see Elcott 2004: 207.  On the problem of translation. The quoted images are then recontextualized as part of a second-order narrative which questions the uses to which photographs are put. G. For instance. the line is also the beginning of a story told by the narrator’s Aunt Fini. yet the photos’ positioning. as well as their narrative framing.” Indeed. of the family album (Sontag 1979. “Max Aurach” (Sebald 1992: 275). In the German . This should warn us that even or especially those photographs which are offered as proof of real events fail to function as evidence. reveal the notion of authenticity and of the documentary as a hoax: the photos function as an affective address but fail to refer indexically to an otherwise documented “reality. As Elcott points out.. are not protected by copyright. Historical photographs and family albums are offered as proof to the stories’ authenticity. It serves not only as a caption to the quoted image in The Emigrants. this is closely related to the problem of English inserts in Sebald’s German prose. but also as both character speech (Aunt Fini’s) and the photo’s caption in the family album from which Fini is quoting (thus referring intertextually to an authority outside the narrative). Beloff 1985: 179–204). However. especially the translation of Sebald’s visual layouts. which. Hirsch 1981. which are steamrolled in Michael Hulse’s English translation of . thus indicating the problematic nature of image-text arrangements. the photograph is a manipulation. Sebald toys with notions of documentary photography when he simulates captions in order to refer to the supposedly authentic source of many of his photographs: the protagonists’ family album. 2002b: 74). Unfortunately. although clearly integral to the rhetoric of The Emigrants. which he is said to have perused and which are already to some extent aestheticized through their inclusion in the standardized narrative.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. the line of text underneath a photograph of “Theres. Kasimir and I” (the narrator’s Aunt Fini) in The Emigrants is printed like a caption and therefore seems at first to authenticate the photograph’s origin and its documentary status (Sebald 1992: 108. photographic collections. this final textual layer is lost by the English translation’s failure to reproduce the exact typesetting. At the same time.

inserting the photograph after the word “photograph.” so that Anglophone readers cannot tell where exactly the quotation from Paul’s album begins and ends. the narrator’s. and thus faithfully renders the language mix used by German Jewish emigrants. thereby “flattening the abrupt swings from German to English and back. about 2. This layering results in a kind of palimpsestic speech. as Paul wrote under this photograph. Michael Hulse’s translation eliminates this simultaneity in identifying the quotation unambiguously as character speech. Hulse puts all character speech in English. who may or may not have been Aunt Fini. The chain of quotations—from Lucy Landau to Paul’s album to the Magris study and finally to the joke punch line—becomes disrupted when the integrity of Paul’s caption is dissolved.” . Kasimir and I” functions as part of a highly sophisticated layering and shifting of narrative agents. who remarks about Paul’s Wehrmacht service in World War II: “always. Like this chain of quotations. eponymous hero of the second Emigrants story. on the other hand. because the caption is also an intertextual reference to a book by Italian Germanist Claudio Magris (1971). and thus implicitly marked as a quotation from Paul’s album. whose title Lontano da dove (Far from Where) in turn quotes the punch line of a Jewish joke (see Anderson 2003: 111). and the semantic surplus produced by the intertextual references—the allusion to Paul’s diasporic (part-Jewish) identity—is lost. one was. Michael Hulse’s translation again fails to reproduce this exact arrangement. The simulated caption draws attention to the fictional processes into which the photograph is integrated. 2002b: 56). the space The Emigrants: while the German original leaves foreign-language (fragments of ) character speech untranslated.  On the “marking” of intertextual references. since the simulated caption can be thought of as being uttered simultaneously in different voices: Aunt Fini’s. whereas the absence in the translation suppresses the photo’s fictionality. In the German original. part of this sentence is centered under the picture. who has to identify the references and determine their scope and implications. . cf.56 Poetics Today 29:1 original.000 km away—but from where?” (1992: 83. The album is presented to the narrator by Lucy Landau. This has far-reaching consequences. like a caption. placing the main burden of interdiscursivity on the side of the recipient. Sebald’s photographs short-circuit the analytic distinction between represented space. Paul’s companion and maybe lover during his final years. A similar shifting of narrative agents occurs when the narrator looks at the family album of Paul Bereyter. from character speech to narratorial captioning and its extratextual source. as the crow flies. and that of the anonymous caption writer in the family album. many of Sebald’s interdiscursive references are unmarked and uncommented upon. Helbig 1996. the line “Theres.

g. as I have indicated above. this arrangement reinforces the suggestion that photos are both an integral and a discriminate part of the fictional discourse rather than an illustration or supplement of it. Again. With very few exceptions (2002a: 147. 157). other factors determining the degree of tension or balance between the two media concern the formatting of Sebald’s images and the ways in which they are or are not set off from the printed text. a sentence. 2002b: 48). and usually they are inserted into the middle of a paragraph. and the extratextual space of the reader by introducing a shifting or doubled space that also serves to connect distant times. Thus. As a rule. Sebald’s presentation and placement of photographs is always suggestive of a meaning that negates the relegating of the photographic image to a subordinate position. something of a balance or productive tension is reached between the three spatial divisions. 23). 328–29. Photographs with a white or light background can therefore easily fade into the white of the surrounding page. and the photos are not relegated to any distinct section of the printed page. Indeed. willfully rearranging the photo-text topography in ways that disturb or destroy the photographs’ interaction with specific sections of the text.. plans. translations of Sebald’s work have approached the photograph as subordinate (indeed irrelevant) to the verbal narrative. there is often no visible border between photography and text. who becomes responsible for an interpretive integration of photography and text. 59). the lack of direct textual commentary leaves that meaning ambiguous. questions arise about the status and of processing these images in relation to the verbal . 2002b: 62) and of printed book pages (2002c: 20. This mainly concerns the reproduction of sketches. The upper edge of landscape and cityscape photographs with a light sky can also disappear into the preceding text (2002a: 38. G. and maps (e. On the one hand. 2002c: 48. photographs in Sebald’s fiction are not enclosed by a frame. The space between photography and text in Sebald’s works may be said to function as a gap or fissure in representation. but on the other hand. At the same time. Accordingly. the seamless insertion of photographs into the narrative makes for an unsettling reading experience. 2002a: 32. causing the three spatial distinctions to overlap: represented space and the space of representation blend into the extratextual space of the reader. Besides the precise positioning of photography vis-à-vis text. Sebald and Monika Maron 57 of their representation.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. when the image is not a supplement. because the extratextual space of the reader becomes integral for balancing the spaces of and inside the photograph against the spatiotemporal storyworld presented in the narrative. or even a (hyphenated) word (1992: 18–19. either the images are as wide as the printed text or centered. However. 2002b: 6.

or cite.58 Poetics Today 29:1 narrative: how do we “read” an image that occurs in the middle of a word? In our reading of the hyphenated place-name “Strauß-berg”—the site of a school trip the narrator took with his teacher Paul Bereyter (ibid. . indeed. Indeed. the reproduced images refer to.  Here I would like to thank Ulrich von Buelow of the German Literature Archive (DLA). In these two examples. as are the varying ways in which each picture can be related to the narrative. Marbach) show that he carefully planned the location of his photographic inserts. as among the very few in The Emigrants explicitly referred or identified from within the storyworld. The two photographs at issue—of Nabokov and the narrator himself—thus gain an exceptional status in the collection. 2002b: 16) or that of the narrator taken by his Uncle Kasimir in the third story of the same collection (1992: 130. heightened by the fact that we are not actually told which particular school class is depicted here. That the rhetorical effect of this and other inserts remains equivocal suggests that the images’ main function lies in the irritation and disturbance they cause in the reading process. These stand opposed to the many images in The Emigrants that are not mentioned in the narrative and may not refer to preexisting photographs but to mental images or sense impressions. especially when the narrative refers directly to a photograph that is reproduced immediately afterward. most of Sebald’s images have no immediately obvious verbal counterpart. thereby enriching the quotational and intertextual logic of the collection. That photographs are inserted into the text with variable frequency adds a further element of surprise and of unsettlement for the reader: in contrast to Maron’s regular and highly predictable pattern of photographic insertions. 2002b: 89). Is this. Yet even these two portrait photographs resist the status of document or illustration. moreover. That of the narrator is dark and blurry and pointedly avoids visually identify.: 59)—are we supposed to pause halfway in order to look at the group portrait of a school class inserted into the middle of this innocuous word? The typescripts which Sebald submitted to his publishers (now in the collection of the German Literature Archive. who gracefully allowed me and other delegates of the Sebald conference in June 2006 to take a look at Sebald’s manuscripts and typescripts. Other photographs in The Emigrants integrate more easily into the verbal syntax. Sebald’s images are always to some extent unexpected. actual photographs which the narrator mentions as having seen or possessed. such as the photo of Nabokov in “Dr Henry Selwyn” (1992: 26. The enigmatic nature of the school portrait is. a portrait of the narrator’s class or just a generic example of a school class? Which church tower is shown in the background? In the absence of any textual reference. the photograph cannot function as either evidence or illustration. on which more below.

2002b: 131). ultimately block or prevent a simple (or smooth) visual encounter with their subjects. He thus draws attention to the medial and mediated nature of his intertextual quotations. Certainly. The third story of The Emigrants. Both photographs. the Nabokov portrait displaces the story’s protagonist (who is not visually presented in The Emigrants) by overlaying his image with that of the famous writer.” tells of the narrator’s research into the emigrants in his own family. “Ambros Adelwarth. But it is here that slippage occurs between text and image or. between text and photographed text. It will not come as a surprise that a careful deciphering of the photographed diary entries soon reveals a series of minor discordances with the quotations given in the narrative as well as some crucial omissions. G. Thus. while purporting to offer visual support for the narrative. Only a careful deciphering of the handwritten entry in the photograph will reveal this clue to the diary’s inauthenticity. Ambros accompanied Cosmo. the closest possible merger of photography and text occurs when photographic reproductions of (hand)written text are inserted into the narrative. son of a wealthy Jewish banking family. Thus. Selwyn which the narrator is shown when he is invited to a slide show of Selwyn’s trip to Crete. However. Again. Gefühle. while simultaneously inviting the reader to compare and contrast the two different mediations. ending instead with the preceding sentence (1992: 193. the Nabokov photograph takes the place of a picture of Dr. the photos disable any single or simple meaning but rather invite reading against the grain of the verbal narrative. more precisely. However. which he recorded in a travel diary that reaches the narrator through his Aunt Fini. Obviously.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. one of Ambros’s nieces. it is the narrator’s omission of . the narrator omits to quote this part of the diary entry. the handwritten diary entry of 23 September (photo: 1992: 194. 2002b: 132) contains the expression “Schwindelgefühle” (“Vertigo”) in the penultimate line of the top paragraph: Schwindel. Sebald and Monika Maron 59 ing its subject. who worked in several European hotels before emigrating to the United States. [sic] is the title of Sebald’s first collection of stories. on several trips to Europe and the Middle East. Ambros cannot have known the title of a collection published almost forty years after his death. the narrator complicates the status of this apparently documentary source by contrasting photographic images of the diary and some of its entries with a transcription of those same entries. However. in particular his great-uncle Ambros. quoted in the verbal narrative. with whom he may have had an illicit homosexual liaison. this is an important intertextual reference and a strong signal of the collection’s fictionality. where he took up a position as personal butler to the young Cosmo Salomon. as well as to the materiality of the diary as physical object. Clearly.

and emotions. the reference to Sebald’s earlier work simultaneously raises the question: Is the author swindling us by using “fake” photographs or “fake” objects? As I have indicated above. then. Adelwarth’s diary is a swindle only if we hold on to a naïve understanding of photography as evidence of the real. As a result.” Selwyn explains. and representations of material objects in the narrator’s possession. The news 10. The photograph of the Aare glacier in “Dr Henry Selwyn” (1992: 25. is telling the story of his old friend. the Swiss mountain guide Johannes Naegeli. the artist Jan-Peter Tripp. who went missing in the early weeks of World War I. The veiled allusion to Sebald’s earlier collection therefore once more underlines the need for an alternative reading of photographs as fictional elements in an account which self-consciously toys with notions of the fictional and the factual. Besides actual photographs. Indeed. The translational choices. Sebald’s images can also represent the visual perception of the narrator or one of his characters or their mental images. or possessed. and the diary photograph is shrunk to a fraction of its original size. thus precluding any comparison between the photographed entries and their quotation in the narrative. the narrator’s landlord. In this connection. which the presentation of the diary as material object at first seemed to establish. . often acting as reflexes of the characters’ mental images. taken. Selwyn. seem to indicate a reluctance to consider this book’s photographs as fictional or textual (and therefore translatable) while at the same time not considering them as immutable objects either (witness the change of size and location). Dr. 2002b: 14) offers such an insight into the protagonist’s mind while also complicating the relation between the space taken up by a reproduced photo and the time supposedly passing in a verbal narration. thoughts.” the German “Schwindel” has a double meaning: it can also denote a fraud or swindle. 2004). unlike the English title “Vertigo.10 The contrasting of photographed and quoted text thus serves to undermine the diary’s evidentiary status. which the narrator is said to have seen. the answer depends on our understanding of photography. “It was assumed. the problem of translating photographs arises again. The photographed text is not translated in the English edition.  A careful reader may also recognize the handwriting in the diary as that of the author Sebald. Especially those photographs which are silently inserted into the narrative transcend the status of illustration or document. April 21. Sebald’s lifelong friend. confirmed to me that Sebald often forged the supposedly authentic handwriting depicted in his books (personal conversation. Moreover. “that he had fallen into a crevasse in the Aare glacier.60 Poetics Today 29:1 this potentially innocuous word which draws attention to its possible status as an intertextual allusion. which again undermines the naive belief in the collection’s factual accuracy.

Selwyn pauses in his narration.. T. the reader’s eye is allowed to follow a much more erratic course. in which the sequentiality of the narrative is balanced out by the different reading paths offered by the inserted images: these call for constant decisions regarding the order in which images and narrative are read—especially where the image breaks up the integrity of a paragraph. It has often been remarked that images are spatial while verbal narrative is temporal in nature: the classic formulation is found in Lessing’s Laokoon. sentence. “It was as if I was buried under snow and ice.” Following this statement. Dr. Mitchell (1986: 103) has pointed out. and it plunged me into a deep depression that nearly led to my being discharged” (2002b: 14). indeed. however. Thus. there is no separating of verbal/temporal from visual/spatial aspects. or word. whose remains are. However.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. are structures in space-time. living in barracks. the interesting problem is to comprehend a particular spatial-temporal construction. said Dr Selwyn after a lengthy pause” (2002b: 14. my emphasis). For after/below its insertion. the (extradiegetic) narrator continues: “But this is an old story. . Sebald’s photo-text collages lead to substantial deviations from conventional reading patterns. G. the text itself becomes a kind of chrono-topography. as is assumed under the norm of silent reading.” Especially when analyzing an artifact that closely combines verbal and visual media and whose effect therefore depends on their co-presence. Selwyn spoke metaphorically about being buried in snow and ice. Instead.e. not to label it as temporal or spatial. But it not only functions as a supplement or description which simply slows down the narration. The photograph thus offers a visual field for the reader to explore while Dr. J. later recovered from a glacier. like all other objects of human experience. Gross argues that the flexibility of eye movement during the close . But not only does the photograph serve to connect the space of Naegeli’s demise with the position of the intradiegetic narrator of this story (i. but the idea itself dates back to antiquity. Sebald and Monika Maron 61 reached me in one of the first letters I received when I was in uniform. As Sabine Gross (1994) has convincingly shown. the German edition shows the photograph of a glacier descending in a wide arc from a mountain range in the background. so that he is literally buried. Rather than reading in an evenly paced and linear fashion. it also constitutes a pause which then turns out to be essential for the temporal progression of Selwyn’s tale. . the idea of linear reading is itself based on dubious assumptions. as W. “Works of art. It also puts Selwyn in the same position as the dead Naegeli. On the basis of neurobiological findings. it also fills a temporal pause in the narrative. While Dr. and . Selwyn then adds. the image can be taken to materialize his thoughts. Selwyn).

that is.62 Poetics Today 29:1 reading of a written text is comparable to that of the spectator before an image (ibid. and how they consequently interpret the relation between the photograph and its verbal counterpart (or non-counterpart). hence a “blank” in the iconotextual whole.: 120). When photography and text are juxtaposed in the Sebaldian manner. either because visual images are not reproduced on the same page as the (presumably) corresponding verbal passage or because the verbal discourse continues to refer to an image one has seen on an earlier page. Let me now further discuss the implications of fissured representational space with reference to the emblematic arrangement of photography and text that opens the Emigrants collection. spatial aspects such as layout and material presentation influence the temporality of reading in complex and varying ways (ibid. Thus. if we apply Wolfgang Iser’s (1978) reader response theory to the study of intermedial relations. depends not least on the scope and direction of the reader’s gaze. Sebald’s photo-texts. directly or indirectly.: 9). then. Sebald’s image-text topography itself generates gaps or fissures between text and image. which precedes the narrative proper. The space represented in the photograph and the space of its representation in the text enter into a tension which can only be resolved in the extratextual space of the reader. Sebald’s readers have to decide whether to look at the images first or to start by reading the verbal narrative (although students in my Sebald seminars agree that there seems to be a tendency toward the former). readers may then turn back to review the image in light of what they have read (while the text is usually only read once). How readers respond to the challenge represented by such a gap. Depending on the placement of the image in relation to its assumed verbal counterpart (if there is indeed one). Put differently. There is no mention of a cemetery in the narrative. Having identified the passage in the verbal narrative that they take to refer to the image. . which can be bridged in a number of ways. its spatial encoding (ibid. She further points out that our understanding of a text crucially depends on its visual presentation. the reader becomes to a large extent responsible for their integrative interpretation so that the role of the recipient is self-consciously foregrounded. the process may involve not only a mobile eye but also a mobile hand: one often has to turn one or several pages back or forward. shows a disused churchyard overlooked by a large tree (1992: 7. When turning to a new page with photographic insertions. question reading processes which are normally habitual and unnoticed by calling attention to the mobility and flexibility of the reader’s eye. 2002b: 3). In line with Sebald’s obsession with cemeteries.: 10). the first photograph in The Emigrants.

the baroque emblem (see Adams and Harper 1992. much of which takes place in a shadowland between the living and the dead. in this case.” or even the entire Emigrants collection. Significantly. the image introduces the motif of a “return of the dead. since the image introduces concepts of death. aber wofür? verzehret das Letzte / Selbst die Erinnerung nicht?” (“I would say thanks. the function of the photograph can be seen as programmatic: clearly. Within that emblematic structure. but for what? does not memory eat up the last things?”. Secondly. and of a return of the dead through (photographic) images (Harris 2001) before these themes are taken up in the ensuing verbal narrative. Moreover. however. the gap between the photograph and the ensuing verbal narrative may be related to the space in between photography and the verbal text preceding the image on the previous page.  “Zerstöret das Letzte / die Erinnerung nicht” (1992: 5). The photograph sets the scene for. Barthes 1984: 9). and extend the scope to the whole of “Dr Henry Selwyn. Sebald and Monika Maron 63 I would here like to suggest two possible readings. the photograph represents the pictura. of a resting place for the dead. Daly and Manning 1999).) . however. In seventeenth-century emblems. by visually representing a cemetery. cf. Belatedness and Synecdoche: Monika Maron’s Pavel’s Letters I would now like to contrast Sebald’s implicit theory of photography—as a layered space that. G.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. In The Emigrants. seems to offer immediate access to death and the past as well as to the characters’ visual impressions and 11. if we read from the photograph forward. the quote preceding the image on the previous double page—“And the last things / memory destroys”11—acts as the emblem’s motto or inscriptio. the second episode in which the narrator talks about a burial and return of the dead—the story of Johannes Naegeli (Sebald 2002b: 14)—also uses a photograph to represent Naegeli’s resting place (and the site of his unexpected reappearance). the photograph itself constitutes the visual space in and through which the dead are buried and forgotten.” which the narrator addresses later in the story (Harris 2001. the entire collection. on the one hand. the three parts were strictly hierarchical: the image functioned as an illustration of the motto (its classical or biblical reference text) that would be further explicated in the subscription (usually in sonnet form) and was thus clearly subordinate to the two verbal parts (Peil 1998). and the body of the story can be read as subscriptio. the hierarchy is not so clear-cut. Firstly. The motto is an unacknowledged and manipulated quotation from Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Elegie”: “Danken möcht ich. my translation. or introduces the topography of. This visual layout of photography and text is one example of Sebald’s recurring reference to traditional iconotextual structures.

As Maron’s autobiographical narrator struggles to reconcile her emotional attachment to the dead grandfather with the dearth of available information about him. which constitutes the thematic focus of the narrative. focusing on the figure of her grandfather. disturbance. to her hometown of Kurow. Pavel’s Letters is not primarily concerned with the historical facts: Pavel’s deportation to Poland (first. the page number. the well-known East German novelist Maron tells the story of her maternal family. Rather. Maron’s narrator stresses the distance she experiences . However. Jahn 2006) or the “generational novel” (Eigler 2005). not unlike a musical structure. while Sebald’s use of photography seems to merge images and text into an intermedial unity. to remember these events in general.. Maron develops a more antagonistic model of image-text relations by always positioning photos in the corner of the book page and somewhat outside of the typographic framework and. Where Sebald uses photography as an element of irritation. 2002). What is new about the new family novel is its preoccupation with the secondary or belated construction of family genealogies: it involves a simultaneous focus on different historical phases.64 Poetics Today 29:1 mental images but. constantly unsettles such moves— with Maron’s family history Pavel’s Letters (1999. builds a house at its arbitrary end. hybrid genre which has been variously described as the “new family novel” (Welzer 2004. Pavel Iglarz.” as Maron’s narrator puts it (2002: 5). “Because the chaos of the past is unbearable. Maron’s book forms part of a recently popular. In part. one comes to grips with it by retrospectively creating a purpose. the attempts of his children (saved from deportation because of their non-Jewish mother) to intervene on his behalf with various government offices. in some instances. since the road existed. A Polish Jew who converted to Baptism and moved to Berlin. and surprise. Pavel’s daughter Hella. on the other hand. As Friederike Eigler (2005) has convincingly argued. she describes herself as “someone who is following their [i. and his eventual death in or near the concentration camp Kulmhof/Chelmno. and her own letters to and from Pavel in particular.e. causing photographs to obliterate an important paratextual element. which form a sort of palimpsestic layering and therefore cannot be perceived independently of each other (Eigler 2005: 9–10). In Pavel’s Letters. he was murdered in the Holocaust when Monika was still a small child. later to the ghetto Belchatow). Maron arranges historical family photographs and verbal narrative in a more regular pattern. Indeed. Where the Sebaldian narrator talks about experiencing an immediate return of the past. with his wife. like someone who inadvertently built a road into a void and then. this illustrates the narrator’s attempts at ordering the chaos of the past. it is the failure of the narrator’s mother. her grandparents’] traces from a safe distance” (2002: 1).

which she couches in ambivalent terms throughout the book.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. and often there is no unambiguous narrative reference to individual pictures.” Instead. individual memories but is always indirect. . As Maron’s narrator (2002: 2) puts it: “Remembering is actually the wrong word for what I had in mind with regard to my grandparents. a point to which I return later in this essay.: 29). many of which are reproduced in the book.  I am here referencing the original German edition of Pavel’s Letters because the English translation disturbs the carefully structured layout of photography and text. suffered. leaving the reader to make sense of it. her secondary and belated recall is not based on authentic. but the reproduced photographs seem to establish a more objective chronology that functions independently of the narrator’s thoughts.: 18) has its narrative counterpart following eleven pages after the image (ibid. (I will refer to the narrator by first name from here on. Admittedly. group portraits dominate throughout. Rarely showing Monika herself. the order of reproduced photographs seems to trace the Iglarz family history chronologically. and especially Pavel. If a description of them can be found—and as with Sebald’s photos. they are usually photos of her grandparents and/or of Hella. such identifications are rarely facilitated by the narrator—it is often not on the same page but in an earlier or later part of the book. which Jonathan Long has convincingly analyzed in terms of Marianne Hirsch’s theory of postmemory (Hirsch 1997. Sebald and Monika Maron 65 between herself and the dead grandparents. as far as can be ascertained from the narrator’s tentative and patchy account. generating a dense web of flashbacks and flash-forwards between photography and text. For instance. G.12 No motivation for this divergence is announced in the narrative.: 22). In what follows. Long 2006). the temporal distance keeps her “safe” from the persecution that they. On the other hand. On the one hand. my reading of Maron’s photographs is somewhat speculative since they are seldom clearly dated. The narrative ordering follows the narrator’s thoughts and memories about her family as well as her conversations with her mother about the ruptures in the family memory caused by Hella’s forgetting of her father’s letters. for in me was no submerged knowledge about them I needed to bring to light. Josefa. doing the dishes (1999: 54) has presumably been described thirty pages prior to its pictorial representation (ibid. Monika turns to a body of family documents recently found in her mother Hella’s attic. While the narrator’s account is structured by the process of her discovery of Pavel’s fate. I will 12. 2001. the photograph of Monika’s grandmother. whereas that of the youthful Pavel (ibid. mediated by surviving documentary sources: this necessitates a self-conscious memory construction.) These are mainly the letters to and from Pavel but also family photographs.

: 28–29). even as a child” (ibid.. which refutes a simple or smooth integration into verbal narratives. Also. intense.14 as perceived by the narrator. see Baer 2002. which is what the narrator is ultimately trying to achieve. they depend on slow.13 “The man in this picture always filled me with respect. authentic. the photographs themselves do not enable an easy. . which is here represented through their photographic portraits. The train metaphor here clearly indicates that the identificatory desire of the narrator (her “irrational sense of nostalgia” [ibid. . 14. and as such depend on the spectator’s interpretation. They are never presence. The resulting narrative is therefore less concerned with the grandparents’ story as such than with Monika’s failure to get a handle on that story. Indeed. sometimes even two pages. see Carolin Duttlinger’s essay in this collection. and Monika’s own present (i.e. of the story she wants to write). on the contrary. the narrator’s repeated glances establish a subjective connection to specific photographs—for instance. I want to show how Monika’s self-conscious presentation of her visual interaction with photographs constitutes photography as a “past-tense medium” (Mirzoeff 1999: 74). and repeated acts of looking.e. the photos’ aura. Thus.  For a recent formulation of this conception of photography. Whatever subject I touch on. As if I had no business being in it” (2002: 33).66 Poetics Today 29:1 read the detachment of photography and narrative as expressive of the distance Monika experiences between the time of her grandparents (i. . either the story throws me out or I throw myself out.: 29]) will never be able to bridge the distance between 13. my emphasis). after five or four. . or immediate access to the past. Whenever I looked at my great-grandfather’s face. The strong autobiographical elements in Pavel’s Letters have tempted scholars to regard the photographs as proof of the story’s “authenticity” (Boll 2002: 97) and to stress the continuities between photography and text (Klötzer 2002: 46). the family group portrait which Monika “loved . Moreover. the time in which she writes her book and looks at the photographs). .  On the Benjaminian concept of aura.: 28)—that is not easily translatable into language. is itself produced through a whole series of visual efforts: “Maybe I felt something of that longing that overcomes me today when I take a long look at this picture. However.. . the nostalgic feeling of looking out from a speeding train at a small village” (ibid. “Something is wrong between me and the story I want to write. I believed I detected a faint smile” (Maron 2002: 15. always representation. the narrator’s ekphrasis is presented as the result of long and repeated visual contacts and is combined with expressions of duration and repetition that defy the oft-repeated view that photography offers a sudden or shock-like access or shortcut to the past.

but these remain insufficient since. the only palpable fact about her grandparents. and it is only through narrative frames that Monika is able to come close to the photograph: “Maybe I only see what I already know about the six people.). presents nothing but a conventional family group. whose photographs do bring about a return of the dead. Again and again. as Monika’s main source of inspiration. because Hella told me about it.: 14). In Pavel’s Letters. even the verbal narrative only marginally represents the grandparents’ death.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. here likened to a small village “hugging a hollow or forest edge that gives off a heart-warming glow in the evening fog” (ibid. which was taken for a prospective U. At the same time. sitting in a speeding train that apparently cannot be stopped. and the space of the narrator. but this emotional closeness is not borne out by the photographic evidence. whereas a neutral observer would only see a conventional family portrait of this time” (ibid. Certain was only that they once existed” (ibid. For Monika. It is this failure which constitutes the main difference between Maron and Sebald.: 19). I cannot hold on to the color pictures. Her attempts to close the distance between the Iglarz family portrayed in this 1930s photograph and her own present through repeated and intense looking fail. the photograph. “because we don’t have a photograph in which he is laughing” (ibid. to the point that she can only envisage these unknown relatives in black and white: “Even when I try my best to imagine [my grandparents] in color.: 9). not his photographs. But the family photos . as people of flesh and blood with a specific eye and skin colour. G. the black-and-white faces impose themselves on the color fragments” (ibid. within seconds. Monika can only see the grandfather as serious. Indeed. it is merely stated as a fact.: 2). The dissimilar assessment of photography’s ability to connect to a different chronotope—that of the past and of the dead—also accounts for the photo-text layout in both books. Photography therefore remains a marginal medium of (post)memory for Monika and one whose interpretation depends on narrative contexts. visa application (which the family then failed to obtain because an American uncle who would have sponsored them died). Monika’s fantasies about the warm and close-knit Iglarz family revolve around her grandfather preparing the family breakfast and making each of his four children a different breakfast drink (ibid. ultimately.S. Sebald and Monika Maron 67 the family group inside the photograph. no photograph can show the central fact of her grandparents’ existence: their death. their very essence. was “their absence.). She is dependent on the photographs. Monika’s imagination of her grandparents is bound to the visual specificity of the surviving photographs. It is not surprising that the novel’s title names Pavel’s letters. Similarly.

I create for myself images I could have remembered instead of inventing them had my grandparents not been killed” (ibid. no Barthesian “there has been”: they rather demand imagination and interpretation. as well as the necessarily imaginative and projective recollection associated with a secondary postmemory. The photographs act as inspiration. With four exceptions (out of seventeen). the specifics of which are left to be determined by the reader. The stress falls here on narration “in retrospect”: it appears that the retrospective and belated nature of her tale.: 32). makes it difficult to come up with alternative readings. be it that of the narrator or the possible competing interpretations of her readers. then. What purpose. by an enlarged detail which directs the spectator’s gaze to a certain part of the photograph—often a single person or body part. as a medium of or obstacle to postmemory in the shape of mental afterimages: “Now. that is. however. also that this arrangement achieves this effect through a synecdochic pattern of repetition which stands in marked contrast to Sebald’s more irregular photo/text arrangement. in retrospect. Here. the first photo is always reproduced in the very top left corner of a verso page and the detail on the bottom right of the next but one recto page. While the first image bears an italicized caption by an unnamed narrative agent. As in the case of Sebald’s The Emigrants. The second image is always in an uncertain relation to the first. The narrator’s analysis is remarkable not only because her fantasies revolve around the time of her mother’s childhood and youth. It does not adhere to the synecdochic pattern but distributes the photographs across the text in a much more random fashion. The following remarks therefore refer to the image-text arrangement in the German original edition. a time she could never have remembered (irrespective of her grandparents’ death). combined with the lack of reliable information about the circumstances under which they were taken. each of Maron’s photographs is followed. that represents Monika’s sense of belatedness and the emotional investment of that belatedness typical of postmemorial constructions. three pages later.68 Poetics Today 29:1 do not show facts. do the reproduced photographs serve—beyond confirming that photography fails to offer access to the past? I would argue that it is the spatial arrangement of photography and text. rather than the photographs themselves. three pages later. but also because the “images” which Monika creates are verbal and not visual. are better expressed by linguistic means than through the surviving photographs. thereby destroying the rhythm of photographic inserts. the second or detail image . which necessitates a page turn. the English translation of Pavel’s Letters shows far-reaching changes. although the conventionality of most of these pictures.

Hella is sitting in the middle of the picture” (Maron 2002: 28). all of whom look rather somber. probably because my mother. 1988: 74). G. .” Semiotically speaking. who also serves as her source of information about the photo in the present: “I loved this photograph even as a child. where focalization is concerned. When looking at the family portrait taken for the U. For instance. is responsible for the synecdochic pattern? Is this pictorial evidence unrelated to the verbal narrative and thus controlled by a different narrative agent—a second narrator maybe—or are the photos to be read as an integral part of a transmedial narrative and so arranged by the same narrator? I would argue for the latter scenario. Note that the detail images often represent a reading of the photograph which can be ascribed to the focalization of the narrator (focalizer and narrator are in principle functionally distinct. the second image would represent “what is being proposed for us to believe or see before us. and directs it toward the narratorfocalizer’s gaze. The direction of that gaze is not always as straightforward as in the example just cited. the only surviving photograph of Monika’s great-grandfather “Judah Lejb Sendrowicz Iglarz” 15.S. never refers to the detail shots. the first image refers to the portrayed relatives in a mix of iconic similarity and indexical “there has been. Not surprisingly.). after all. form the center of the family group. the narrator’s gaze is drawn to the figure of her mother Hella. who was then five or six. In Mieke Bal’s (1997: 224) visual theory of focalization. however. looked so pretty though she was quite obviously in a bad mood. since they refer to different aspects of a narrative. Other detail shots. for instance. which is itself directed at this object. . and thus from its visual object.  With Mieke Bal (1997: 157) and Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan (2002 [1983]: 74ff. Sebald and Monika Maron 69 is unaccompanied by verbal commentary.” whereas the second image draws the reader’s attention away from the iconic and indexical reference of the photograph (still present of course). Hella remembers that the photographer made her sit on her leg so long that it fell asleep.15 This means that the detail shots indicate that part of a photograph on which the narrator’s attention also lingers in her ekphrasis of that image. where Hella does. . while closely describing some of the photographs. as typical of photographs at the time). then. offer less predictable readings of family photographs. That Monika should look at her mother first and foremost is therefore not so surprising. it is therefore insignificant whether narration is in the first or third person. and the narrator. Who. but here they coincide in one person). visa application. I assume that there is no “zero focalization” (Genette 1980: 189. . then. the detail image has been cropped to a head shot of Hella Iglarz looking rather morosely out at the spectator (although it is not immediately obvious that she is in a worse mood than any of the other family members.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W.

” her readers (was Judah Lejb really illiterate. italicized caption. this highly suggestive layout has been destroyed in the English translation.e. can be taken to expose or ironize the subjectivity of the narrator’s gaze (and thus of the second image). caption) paradoxically shows the illiterate Judah Lejb holding an open book: “On the book rests my great grandfather’s hand. where her grandparents appear in the opposite corners of adjacent pages (Maron 1999: 18–19). who “had started the forgetting. The interpretive uncertainty of the narrator which surfaces later in the book and in which she includes “us. crosses the photograph’s promise of reference. her grandfather’s birth certificate which indicates the illiteracy of her great-grandfather [ibid. He didn’t want to tell his children anything about the orthodox world he had left behind.: 6]).16 and 16. . But Judah Lejb Sendrowicz Iglarz couldn’t read” (ibid.). which are based on insufficient information that is. and not Hella. his education. the first image. I refer to the engagement pictures. four fingers slightly curved and close together. however. not for someone who was illiterate” (ibid. as if marking the line at which he had interrupted his reading for this photograph. However. external to the image (in this case. whether his father was really illiterate. i. at any rate. the information about her great-grandfather which the narrator gleans from written documents may be just as unreliable as that latent in the photographs. or whether he only couldn’t write in Russian or Polish.: 15). . . which places Pavel’s photograph in the top right corner of a recto page and Josefa’s in the top left of the subsequent verso page (2002: 9–10). if read in light of the detail shot and its ekphrasis. moreover.. That is why we don’t know anything about his upbringing. it is Pavel.: 73). The distance between the narrator and her family pictures is greatest.70 Poetics Today 29:1 (2002: 14. making it impossible to assign a stable “there has been” to the image. After all. I would likely take him for a librarian or a pharmacist. though he wrote well in Hebrew” (ibid. maybe even an artist.  Again. The detail image showing Judah Lejb’s hand with the book expresses not only this paradox but also the narrator’s astonishment at the discordance between the great-grandfather’s appearance and illiteracy: “If I were to meet a man with my great-grandfather’s face. the three images which are unaccompanied by detail shots. The synecdochic repetition thus highlights the subjectivity of the narrator’s visual perception and the randomness of her associations. or why he spoke Russian. in the case of those photographs that pointedly break with the synecdochic schema. German and Hebrew besides Polish and Yiddish. . But where the second image threatens to subvert the indexical reference to a real object which the first photograph seeks to uphold in combination with the accompanying. or could he read Hebrew but not Russian? Does he or doesn’t he smile?).

immediately opposite (1999: 96–97. while others were transported to Kulmhof/Chelmno and gassed there (ibid. the narrator exempts them from the logic of photographic reproduction and repetition. not visualized through reproductions of focalized details. the narrator’s gaze is evoked only ekphrastically. This is how each wanted to be seen by the other. It is interesting to note that the engagement pictures are described as the most enigmatic photographs in Monika’s possession. In light of this proximity between the grandparents’ images. In her interactions with these exceptional images. it also draws attention to something that cannot be directly represented: the grave of Monika’s grandfather. In rhyming the grandmother’s engagement picture with the grandfather’s (rather than repeating a detail) and in drawing the Kurow photo and its synecdochic repetition so close together. . This picture. but on the very next recto page. Another anomaly is introduced into the synecdochic pattern through the last photograph taken of the grandparents in Josefa’s hometown of Kurow. The picture’s lack of a repetition or complementation not only hints that. as usual. 2002: 64–65). This is their only face. the only photograph completely devoid of a counterpart stands out all the more: the picture of the grandmother’s grave (2002: 62).). The German hardcover edition of Pavel’s Letters may have found a way around the impossibility of showing Pavel’s grave by reproducing a photograph taken by Maron’s son Jonas and showing a densely wooded landscape on the book’s endpapers. singular pieces.: 94). about whose location nothing is known. before Pavel was deported to the Belchatow ghetto. i. G. Sebald and Monika Maron 71 the image of her grandmother’s grave (ibid.: 58). Monika has no information about the circumstances surrounding Pavel’s death. which is not mentioned by the narrator. a feeling reinforced by the serious mien of the subjects. as some of the inhabitants from the Belchatow ghetto were shot. She also explicitly avoids the sort of subjective associations which otherwise characterize her interaction with photographs while stressing that these auratic pictures are not open to focalization and interpretation: “My grandparents’ pictures give the observer the sense of gazing at something final that cannot be exchanged. devoid of any spontaneity. In fact. may or may not serve as a photographic representation of the “surrounding woods” where the shootings occurred (ibid. this way and no other” (ibid.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. the imagetext arrangement pointedly presents the grandparents as an inseparable unity. the dead do not return. for Monika. A synecdochic repetition of this photo is shown not on the next-but-one recto page. in terms which closely echo the Benjaminian aura concept: “These pictures look like rare.).. By regarding them as if they were paintings and not photographs. This ambiguous and contextually underdetermined photograph. like miniature paintings” (2002: 17).e.

determinate source or origin. His images are always to some extent unexpected. Photography and the Fissuring of Representation In conclusion. or buried past but with very different results. Sebald constantly unsettles readers’ assumptions about the photograph as document and evidence of the real. Photographs are used as elements in chains of quotations which cannot be reduced to any single. may suggest that the grandfather’s death cannot be represented through either photography or text. The Emigrants therefore promotes a dynamic process of discovery and interpretation on the part of the reader. Sebald further stresses the integral unity of his photo-texts by representing such conventional bimedial forms as the captioned photograph and the baroque emblem. However. establishes photography as a haunted medium. however. his final resting place is an impossible space that can only be hinted at on the margins of the book. as are the ways in which each picture can be related to the narrative. one which creates a shifting or doubled space that undermines the distinctions among represented space. on the one hand. but especially through the positioning of photography and text in layout. perceptions. forgotten. make a sharp distinction between the two impossible.72 Poetics Today 29:1 which has not been reprinted in either the German paperback edition or the English translation. Sebald’s irregular and disorienting spacing of photography visà-vis text constitutes photographs as shortcuts that offer the reader access to images. and sensations beyond the grasp of the narrator. moreover. Ultimately. and the extratextual space of the reader as well as the distinction between present and past time. The motif of the “return of the dead.” prominently introduced in the cemetery photograph that opens the collection. Through a variety of representational strategies. such a layering of time-space does not necessarily inhere in the photograph but is established in the collusion between photography and text and between the images and their spectators. let me briefly outline how the spacing of photographs differs between Maron and Sebald and comment on what their texts—and my comparative reading of them—say about the spatial relationship of photographs to text in general. Sebald playfully dismantles binary conceptions of the fictional and the factual and of text versus image. the space of representation. The various forms of text and writing inside and around the photographs. the status of photography in The Emigrants is characterized by ambivalences between. Both authors employ photographs in an attempt to uncover a hidden. the view that .

which must forever remain sealed off from the course of time. Of particular note in this respect are the four exceptions to the synecdochic schema in Pavel’s Letters: the engagement photographs which Monika’s grandparents gave each other. Moreover.. Maron suggests that photography is a marginal medium of memory and one that is overdetermined by discursive. Monika Maron’s Pavel’s Letters offers an even more skeptical view of photography and of the photograph’s potential for accessing incommensurate times and spaces. Here. the scrapbooking technique is employed by both authors to create a fissured representational . Rather. the repetition of a photographic detail calls attention to the photos’ mediation of the past. Monika comes closest to representing the otherwise unrepresentable fact of Pavel’s death. Whether photographs are placed in an antagonistic position to (Maron) or inserted as if seamlessly into the verbal text (Sebald). their last portrait photograph. The represented space of the photographs remains opaque or inaccessible—an exterritorial space that the narrator/spectator passes by as if traveling on a train. The novel therefore ends with the narrator abandoning her silent and solitary interaction with photographs and reopening the interrupted conversation with her mother: “Tomorrow I shall give her a call. as well as to the repetitive and durative aspects of looking at photographs. Not only the time but also the space of the photographs grows as distant as possible from their observers. G.g. shocklike or traumatic access to the past (contrast. Baer 2002). the grave photograph implicitly hints at an impossible image: it lacks the complement in one of Pavel’s grave. Conversely. especially verbal frames.Horstkotte • Representation of Space in W. on the other. is not readily translatable into language. while the space of their representation is moved to the very edges of the textual layout. but in the contextual and narrative information which the narrator obtains from her mother. This affective connection. and to the projectively and affectively charged nature of such a visual encounter. which constantly undermines such an easy access. and to access the space of the photograph. the play with photographs as elements in a chain of quotations and interdiscursive references. Monika’s desire to identify with the photographed relatives. however. Sebald and Monika Maron 73 photos offer immediate access to death and the past and. e. paradoxically. is located not inside the images. By positioning photographs in the very corners of the printed book page. While the three portraits’ placement is illustrative of Monika’s view that her grandparents constitute an inseparable unity. and the picture of Josefa’s grave. or the day after” (Maron 2002: 142). the repetition of photographs in a synecdochic pattern implicitly argues against a view of photography as an immediate. which does not exist.

.” October 106: 103–21. G. not only on the part of the publishing industry. especially of how visual perception affects our reading of verbal as well as visual texts. A common problem in my discussions of Maron and Sebald concerns the translation of photography in fiction. to take photography seriously and to regard photographs as part of the text rather than as a paratextual illustration or supplement. Behind this lies a reluctance. as not meriting a serious. Sebalds Dilemma der zwei Väter. 1990 (Leiden: E.74 Poetics Today 29:1 space.” Especially in novels that highlight the positioning of photographs. . Not only do the two books constitute a photo-text topography in which the positioning of photographs is as important as their visual content. J. Studying the spatial relationship of photography and text thus leads to a heightened awareness of reception processes.’ like any other. consistent. because they somehow simply “are” as objects) and freely translatable (as elements that can be rearranged. Ulrich 2002 Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma (Stanford. Why are photographs so haphazardly “translated” in both novels? Photos seem to be simultaneously seen as below translation (i. Biografische Skizzen zu einem Portrait des Dichters als junger Mann. Harper 1992 The Emblem in Renaissance and Baroque Europe: Tradition and Variety. is the site of a complex ‘intertextuality. 13–17 August. Baer. engages discourses beyond itself.’ an overlapping series of previous texts ‘taken for granted’ at a particular cultural and historical conjuncture. resized. As Victor Burgin (1982: 144) wrote more than twenty years ago: “photographs are texts inscribed in terms of what we may call ‘photographic discourse. Mark M. and Anthony J. like any other. Alison. and accurate transposition to the new linguistic context. Sebald. the ‘photographic text. Selected Papers of the Glasgow International Emblem Conference.’ but this discourse.e. they also foreground the practice and process of reading by inviting the recipient to move around in this topography—a movement that is self-consciously reflected in the travel motif in both books. There both the photographs and the space between photography and text act as blanks that have to be filled in by the reader/spectator. G. References Adams. and their interdiscursive interplay and interreference. 2006 “Wo die Schrecken der Kindheit verborgen sind: W.” Literaturen 7/8: 32–39. CA: Stanford University Press). and perhaps even eliminated with impunity). the textuality of photographs should be obvious and treated accordingly. 2003 “The Edge of Darkness: On W. Brill). the complex network of looks circulating around them. Anderson.

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