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«'16 Die Editionsreihe der Berliner Festspiele erscheint bis zu sechsmal jährlich und präsentiert Originaltexte und Kunstpositionen. Bislang ...»

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Die Editionsreihe der Berliner Festspiele erscheint bis zu sechsmal jährlich und

präsentiert Originaltexte und Kunstpositionen. Bislang erschienen:

Edition 1

Hanns Zischler, Großer Bahnhof (2012)

Christiane Baumgartner, Nachtfahrt (2009)

Edition 2

Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions Journals (2002 – 2004)

Jorinde Voigt, Symphonic Area (2009)

Edition 3

Marcel van Eeden, The Photographer (1945 – 1947), (2011 – 2012)

Edition 4

Mark Greif, Thoreau Trailer Park (2012) Christian Riis Ruggaber, Contemplatio I–VII: The Act of Noting and Recording (2009 – 2010) Edition 5 David Foster Wallace, Kirche, nicht von Menschenhand erbaut (1999) Brigitte Waldach, Flashfiction (2012) Edition 6 Peter Kurzeck, Angehalten die Zeit (2013) Hans Könings, Spaziergang im Wald (2012) Edition 7 Botho Strauß, Kleists Traum vom Prinzen Homburg (1972) Yehudit Sasportas, SHICHECHA (2012) Edition 8 Phil Collins, my heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught (2013) Edition 9 Strawalde, Nebengekritzle (2013) Edition 10 David Lynch, The Factory Photographs (1986–2000) Georg Klein, Der Wanderer (2014) Edition 11 Mark Lammert, Dimiter Gotscheff – Fünf Sitzungen / Five Sessions (2013) Edition 12 Tobias Rüther, Bowierise (2014) Esther Friedman, No Idiot (1976–1979) Edition 13 Michelangelo Antonioni, Zwei Telegramme (1983) Vuk D. Karadžić, Persona (2013) Edition 14 Patrick Ness, Every Age I Ever Was (2014) Clemens Krauss, Metabolizing History (2011 – 2014) Edition 15 Herta Müller, Pepita (2015) Edition 16 Tacita Dean, Event for a Stage (2015) Edition 17 Angélica Liddell, Via Lucis (2015) Edition 18 Karl Ove Knausgård, Die Rückseite des Gesichts (2014) Thomas Wågström, Nackar / Necks (2014) Edition 21 Berliner Festspiele John Berger Ein Selbstportrait (2016 ) Übersetzt von Hans Jürgen Balmes Die Edition ist eine Publikation der Berliner Festspiele.



1926 in London geboren, ist Schriftsteller, Maler und Kunstkritiker. Sein erster Roman „G“ wurde 1972 mit dem Booker Preis ausgezeichnet. Sein Buch „Sehen.

Das Bild der Welt in der Bilderwelt” (1974) beeinflusste Generationen von Kunst­ historiker*innen. John Berger lebt heute in einem Bergdorf in der Haute­Savoie und in Paris. Neben der Trilogie „Von ihrer Hände Arbeit” (1982 –1991) erschienen Essaybände, Gedichte und zuletzt „Gegen die Abwertung der Welt“ (Essays, 2003), „Hier, wo wir uns begegnen” (2006), „A und X. Eine Liebesgeschichte in Briefen“ (2010) und „Bentos Skizzenbuch” (2013). Bei den 66. Internationalen Filmfestspielen Berlin erlebte der Essayfilm „The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger“, produziert von Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth und Bartek Dziadosz, im Haus der Berliner Festspiele seine Uraufführung. Den Text „Self­ Portrait“ las Tilda Swinton zu dieser Gelegenheit im Auftrag von John Berger.

born in London in 1926, is a writer, painter and art critic. His first novel, “G”, received the Booker Prize in 1972. His book “Ways of Seeing” (1972) influenced generations of art historians. Today, John Berger lives in a mountain village in the Haute­Savoie and in Paris. In addition to the “Into their Labours”­trilogy (1982 –1991), he published volumes of essays and poems; most recently “The Shape of a Pocket” (Essays, 2001), “Here is where we meet” (2005), “A to X: A Story in Letters” (2008) und “Bento’s Sketchbook” (2011). At the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, his essay film “The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger”, produced by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Bartek Dziadosz, was pre­ miered at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. On this occasion, Tilda Swinton read the text “Self­Portrait” on behalf of John Berger.

John Berger looks with his eyes and his head, hears with his ears and his heart.

He is fully and profoundly awake – he misses nothing under his watch.

His eyes are open and he is listening, his hand is making marks on paper.

–  –  –

I have been writing for about eighty years. First letters then poems and speeches, later stories and articles and books, now notes. The activity of writing has been a vital one for me; it helps me to make sense and continue. Writing, however, is an off­shoot of something deeper and more general – our relationship with language as such. And the subject of these few notes is language.

Let’s begin by examining the activity of translating from one language to another. Most translations today are technological, whereas I’m referring to literary translations. The translation of texts which concern individual experience.

The conventional view of what this involves proposes that the translator or translators study the words on one page in one language and then render them into another language on another page. This involves a so­called word­for­word translation, and then an adaptation to respect and incorporate the linguistic tradition and rules of the second language, and finally another working­over to recreate the equivalent of the “voice” of the original text. Many – perhaps most – translations follow this procedure and the results are worthy, but second­rate.

Why? Because true translation is not a binary affair between two languages but a triangular affair. The third point of the triangle being what lay behind the words of the original text before it was written. True translation demands a return to the pre­verbal.

* One reads and rereads the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them to reach, to touch the vision or experience which prompted them. One then gathers up what one has found there and takes this quivering almost wordless “thing” and places it behind the language it needs to be translated into. And now the prin­ cipal task is to persuade the host language to take in and welcome the “thing” which is waiting to be articulated.

This practice reminds us that a language cannot be reduced to a dictionary or stock of words and phrases. Nor can it be reduced to a warehouse of the works written in it.

A spoken language is a body, a living creature, whose physi­ ognomy is verbal and whose visceral functions are linguistic. And this creature’s home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate.

* Consider the term “mother tongue”. In Russian the term is “rodnoy­yazik”, which means “nearest” or “dearest tongue”. At a pinch one could call it “darling tongue”.

Mother tongue is one’s first language, first heard as an infant from the mouth of one’s mother. Hence the logic of the term. I mention it now because the creature of language, which I’m trying to describe, is undoubtedly feminine. I imagine it’s centre as a phonetic uterus.

Within one mother tongue are all mother tongues. Or to put it another way – every mother tongue is universal.

Noam Chomsky has brilliantly demonstrated that all langua­ ges – not only verbal ones – have certain structures and procedures in common. And so a mother tongue is related to (rhymes with?) non­verbal languages – such as the languages of signs, of behavior, of spatial accommodation.

When I’m drawing, I try to unravel and transcribe a text of appearances, which already has, I know, its indescribable but assured place in my mother tongue.

Words, terms, phrases can be separated from the creature of their language and used as mere labels. They then become inert and empty. The repetitive use of acronyms is a simple example of this. Most mainstream political discourse today is composed of words which, separated from any creature of language, are inert and dead. And such dead “word­mongering” wipes out memory and breeds a ruthless complacency.

* What has prompted me to write over the years is the hunch that something needs to be told, and that if I don’t try to tell it, it risks not to be told. I picture myself as a stop­gap man rather than a consequential, professional writer.

After I’ve written a few lines I let the words slip back into the creature of their language. And there, they are instantly recognized and greeted by a host of other words, with whom they have an affinity of meaning, or of opposition, or of metaphor or alliteration or rhythm. I listen to their confabulation. Together they are contest­ ing the use to which I put the words I chose. They are questioning the roles I allotted them.

So I modify the lines, change a word or two, and submit them again. Another confabulation begins.

And it goes on like this until there is a low murmur of provi­ sional consent. Then I proceed to the next paragraph.

Another confabulation begins.

Others can place me as they like as a writer. For myself I’m the son of a bitch – and you can guess who the bitch is, no?

–  –  –

He sees what’s happening in the world as something both pitiless and inexplicable. And he takes this for granted. His energy is concentrated on the immediate, on getting by and on finding a way out to something a bit brighter. He has observed that there are many circumstances and situations in life which occur and re­ occur and are therefore, despite their strangeness, familiar. Since early childhood he has been familiar with dictums, jokes, hints of advice, tricks of the trade, dodges, which refer to these recurrent daily puzzles of life. And so he faces them with a pro­verbial fore­ knowledge of what he’s up against. He’s seldom nonplussed.

Here are some of the axioms of the proverbial foreknowledge he has acquired.

The arse is the centre of the male body; it’s where you first kick your opponent, and it’s what you most frequently fall on when knocked down.

Women are another army. Watch above all their eyes.

The powerful are always hefty and nervous.

Preachers love only their own voices.

There are so many disabled around that wheelchairs may need a traffic­controller.

The words are missing to name or explain the daily run of trouble, unmet needs and frustrated desire.

Most people have no time of their own yet they don’t realise this. Pursued, they pursue their lives.

You, like them, count for nothing, until you step aside and stick your neck out, then your companions will stop short and gaze in wonder. And in the silence of that wonder there is every conceivable word of every mother tongue. You’ve created a hiatus of recognition.

The ranks of men and women possessing nothing or almost nothing can offer a spare hole of exactly the right size for a little fellow to hide in.

The digestive system is often beyond our control.

A hat is not a protection from the weather; it’s a mark of rank.

When a man’s trousers fall down it’s a humiliation; when a woman’s skirts are uplifted it’s an illumination.

In a pitiless world a walking stick may be a companion.

Other axioms apply to location and settings.

To enter most buildings money – or evidence of money – is required.

Staircases are slides.

Windows are for throwing things or climbing through.

Balconies are posts from which to scramble down or from which to drop things.

–  –  –

Any step taken is likely to be a mistake, so take it with style to distract from the probable shit.

Something like this was part of the proverbial knowledge of a kid, around ten years old – 10 the first time your age has two numerals – hanging out in south London, in Lambeth, at the very beginning of the twentieth century.

A lot of this childhood was spent in public institutions, first a workhouse and then a school for destitute children. Hannah, his mother, to whom he was deeply attached, was incapable of looking after him. During much of her life she was confined to a Lunatic Asylum. She came from a south London milieu of Music­ Hall performers.

Public institutions for the destitute, such as workhouses and schools for derelict children resembled, still resemble, prisons, in the way they are organised and in the way they are laid out.

Penitentiaries for losers. When I think of the 10 year old kid and what he experienced, I think of the paintings of a certain friend of mine today.

Michael Quanne, until he was in his 40s, spent more than half his life in prison, sentenced for repeated petty larcenies.

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