A. Soler wins Walter Benjamin Award for a work inspired by W.G. Sebald

The translator Anna Soler Horta from Barcelona was awarded the first “Walter Benjamin International Memorial Award” in Portbou (Girona province) yesterday for “Fragments”, an audiovisual project inspired by the novel The Emigrants by the German author W.G. Sebald. This year the award was given for a piece of artistic creation and endowed with 12.000,- EUR; 58 entries competed for the prize.

Soler, who knows Sebald’s work well as she translated Austerlitz and The Emigrants into Catalan (also Schnitzler, Hesse, Brecht, and currently Benjamin), has followed the the writer’s steps through some of the landscapes related to his personalities. She took pictures of their geography and constructed a kind of necropolis, a registry of absences that aims at -by means of representation and in the same manner as Sebald does it- stopping the past’s disapearance. In fact, in The Emigrants there is a thread of physical and emotional landscapes through which there is outlined a journey to the interior of European culture, left in broken pieces by the succession of catastrophes that culminated in World War II.

Soler’s project consists in the creation of a sonorous space that fusions fragments of Sebald’s text with other materials that appear in the book, such as songs, environmental noise, or dialogues from movies, with the aim of drawing a map of sonorous references that enter a poetic dialogue with the landscape fotographies, so that the viewers trace their own ways to the past by way of a critical view on the present. It also includes also a webpage to make known the process.

The jury, formed by Francesc Abad, Xavier Antich, Fina Birulés, Jordi Llovet, Pilar Parcerisas, Àngel Quintana, Erdmut Wizisla and Jörg Zimmer, valued the work’s approach to memory, fragment, fotography, exile in consonance with Benjamin’s legacy, and that the winner had done so by way of an author like Sebald, akin to Benjamin in his concern for Europe’s destiny.

[Unofficial translation of a piece by E.Vazquez published in the Catalan daily El Punt Avui on Nov. 5, 2012.]

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