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Sybille Smith, Mothertongue

From street dogs of Buenos Aires to street cars of Vienna, from Sydney in the1940’s to the puzzles of return journeys and the enigmas of ageing, these precisely observed and finely crafted essays are by turns moving, funny and profound.  More than a memoir, they are an investigation of the act of remembering and the intricate part language plays in retrieving the past:

There is a sort of continuous band of surface memory, registering daily events and able to deliver a printout at any time. There is a deeper level of archival data, which you can scroll through for a specific piece of information. And there is cutting a hole in the ice and lowering a line into the black water.

These pieces are both entertaining and thought-provoking, and reveal a unique voice among contemporary essayists.

Sybille Gottwald was born in Vienna and came to Sydney in 1938 with her family. They settled on a small block of land in West Pennant Hills. From Hornsby Girls’ High School she attended the University of Sydney, where she studied German and English Literature. She was subsequently appointed  lecturer in German at the University of Tasmania, where she met her husband, the poet Vivian Smith. She lived in Hobart until she returned in the late 1960s to live in Sydney with her husband  and their three children. Her study, Inside Poetry, appeared in 1985, and a long essay, Art and the Experience of Randomness, was published in the collection On Being Human in 1990. Over the years various essays and reviews have appeared in the Hobart Mercury, the Sydney Bulletin, Quadrant, Southerly and the Best Australian Essays 2013 and 2014.

2016 | ISBN 9781922181909 | 203 x 133 mm | 100 pp  
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