Monday, June 04, 2007

The Sock

"The first cabinet that would yield whenever I wanted was the wardrobe. I had only to pull on the knob, and the door would click open and spring toward me. Among the nightshirts, aprons, and undershirts which were kept there in the back was the thing that turned the wardrobe into an adventure for me. I had to clear a way for myself to its farthest corner. There I would come upon my socks, which lay piled in traditional fashion - that is to say, rolled up and turned inside out. Every pair had the appearance of a little pocket [bag]. For me, nothing surpassed the pleasure of thrusting my hand as deeply as possible into its interior. I did not do this for the sake of the (...) warmth. It was the 'little present' rolled up inside that I always held in my hand and that drew me into the depths. When I had closed my fist around it and, as far as I was able, made certain that I possessed the stretchable [soft] woolen mass, there began the second phase of the game, which brought with it the unveiling. For now I proceeded to unwrap 'the present', to tease it out of its woolen pocket [bag]. I drew it ever nearer to me, until something rather disconcerting would happen: I had brought out 'the present', but the 'pocket' [bag] in which it had lain was no longer there. I could not repeat the experiment on this phenomenon often enough. It taught me that form and content, the veil and what is veiled [the wrap and what is wrapped], are the same. It led me to draw truth from works of literature as warily [carefully] as the child's hand retrieves the sock from 'the pocket' [bag]."

Walter Benjamin, The Sock, in Berlin Chidhood around 1900, Transl. Howard Eiland, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass. & London/England, 2006, pp 96, 97

in square brackets alternative translations suggested by me as , maybe, more in line with the German text


Blogger Arielle said...

Magic and superstition:

"Anthropologists and psychologists have long been interested in superstitions. One of the key categories of superstitious thinking is the 'law of contagion', which says that when an object has been in contact with someone, it somehow acquires their 'essence'.
Psychologist Paul Rozin and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have investigated how common such thinking is today.
They asked people to rate how they would feel wearing a nice, soft, blue jumper that had been freshly laundered -but previously worn by someone else. As they varied the fictitious wearers of the jumper, it became clear how strongly people follow the age-old belief in magical contagion.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the volunteers were unhappiest about wearing the jumper if they were told it had previously belonged to a serial killer.
On the whole, they would rather have worn a sweater that had been dropped in dog faeces and not washed -raising genuine health concerns- than a laundered sweater that had been worn by a mass murderer. Even in the 21st century, we are far from being the rational creatures that we like to think we are, as a final part of the experiment made dismayingly clear.
When asked to imagine that the laundered sweater had been worn by someone who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, most people once again said they wouldn't wear it."

The Week
26 May 2007

11:04 am  
Blogger Gesa said...

Hi Solveigh,
I've been looking for translation of Der Strumpf and came across your blog. I wondered whether you you would mind if I copied the text and linked to your blog?
I've only got the German text myself and otherwise would need to pay my library a visit?
I like your blog and the use you make of letters and literature!
Best wishes,

9:01 pm  
Blogger Solveigh Goett said...

yes, that's fine, Gesa. I also have only got the German text and found the translation in the library, but reading a translation next to the original is always a bit disappointing. But it is a lovely story which I have been referring to a lot in my work. In the autumn I did a conference paper based on it for 'Vital Signs: Real Life Methods' at Manchester.

10:58 pm  
Blogger Gesa said...

That's great, many thanks, Solveigh.
Hm, yes, I know what you mean re translation/original; I've been hunting for poetry translations of late and, yes, the richness and nuance so often gets lost. I work as an urban geographer, and the Sock is such a fantastic metaphor for knowledge production and curiosity.

9:27 am  

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