TORCH Book at Lunchtime webinar on Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of my City by Durs Grünbein, translated by Professor Karen Leeder.
Book at Lunchtime is a series of bite-sized book discussions held weekly during term-time, with commentators from a range of disciplines. The events are free to attend and open to all.
About the book:
Porcelain is a book-length cycle of forty-nine poems written over the course of more than a decade that together serve as a lament for Durs Grünbein’s hometown, Dresden, which was destroyed in the Allied firebombing of February 1945. The book is at once a history and “declaration of love” to the famed “Venice on the Elbe,” so catastrophically razed by British bombs; a musical fusion of eyewitness accounts, family memories, and stories, of monuments and relics; the story of the city’s destiny as seen through a prism of biographical enigmas, its intimate relation to the “white gold” porcelain that made its fortune and reflections on the power and limits of poetry.
Published in English for the first time, this translation by Professor Karen Leeder marks the seventy-fifth year anniversary of the firebombing.
Professor Karen Leeder is a Professor of Modern Languages at Oxford University and a Fellow of New College, Oxford. She has published widely on modern German culture and is a prize-winning translator of contemporary German literature, most recently winning the English PEN award and an American PEN/Heim award for her translation of Ulrike Almut Sandig. She was a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow with the Southbank Centre from 2014-15 and she currently works with MPT, Poet in the City, and The Poetry Society on her project Mediating Modern Poetry.
Durs Grünbein was born on 9 October 1962 in Dresden. He is one of the most important and internationally powerful German poets and essayists. After the opening of the Iron Curtain, he traveled through Europe, Southeast Asia, and the United States. He was a guest of the German Department of New York University and The Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Georg Büchner Prize, the Friedrich Nietzsche Prize, the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize and the Polish Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award. His books have been translated into several languages. He lives in Berlin and Rome.
Edmund de Waal is an internationally acclaimed artist and writer, best known for his large-scale installations of porcelain vessels, often created in response to collections and archives or the history of a particular place. His interventions have been made for diverse spaces and museums worldwide, including The British Museum, London; The Frick Collection, New York; Ateneo Veneto, Venice; Schindler House, Los Angeles; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and V&A Museum, London. De Waal is also renowned for his bestselling family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010), and The
White Road (2015). His new book, Letters to Camondo, a series of haunting letters written during lockdown was published in April 2021. He was made an OBE for his services to art in 2011 and awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction by Yale University in 2015. Born 1964 Nottingham. He lives and works in London.
Professor Patrick Major is Professor of History at the University of Reading, where he is also an associate of the East German Studies Archive. His research interests are primarily the political, social and cultural history of divided Germany in the Cold War. He has published on the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and Hollywood's depictions of 'bad Nazis' and 'good Germans', and is currently researching the bombing of Berlin in the Second World War.