An Inventory of Losses

Longlist, National Book Awards 2021 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9780811229630
New Directions
Judith Schalansky

Judith Schalansky, born in Greifswald in 1980, lives in Berlin and works as a writer, book designer, and editor of the prestigious natural history list at Matthes und Seitz. (Photo credit: René Fietzek) More about this author >

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith was selected for the New Books in German Emerging Translators Program and has won the Austrian Cultural Forum London Translation Prize. (Photo credit: New Directions) More about this author >

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Translated from the German


Each disparate object described in this book—a Caspar David Friedrich painting, a species of tiger, a villa in Rome, a Greek love poem, an island in the Pacific—shares a common fate: it no longer exists, except as the dead end of a paper trail. Recalling the works of W. G. Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, and Rebecca Solnit, An Inventory of Losses is a beautiful evocation of twelve specific treasures that have been lost to the world forever, and that, taken as a whole, open mesmerizing new vistas of how to think about extinction and loss.

With meticulous research and a vivid awareness of why we should care about these losses, Judith Schalansky, the acclaimed author of Atlas of Remote Islands, lets these objects speak for themselves: she ventriloquizes the tone of other sources, burrows into the language of contemporaneous accounts, and deeply interrogates the very notion of memory.