In this deeply personal cahier James E. Montgomery contemplates memory, loss and the consolatory power of words through the prism of his personal circumstances. His thoughts are refracted by his own translations of the dirges of the 6th-century poetess al-Khansa’, lamenting the battlefield death of her two brothers.more
Each section of Montgomery’s text is dated and spans over a period of two weeks with the final entry strangely ending on 11 September 2017, exactly 16 years after he himself witnessed, from his Greenwich Village window, the haunting and ‘strange beauty’ of the day’s portentous spectacle. Still, throughout the text Montgomery never loses touch with his vocation as a literary translator. He considers the practice more akin to trauma than it is to memory: ‘Translation is also mourning for what we want to retain, what we value and cherish; it is, equally, mourning for what we know we must lose’, all of which is relayed by Alison Watt’s wondrous images that accompany the cahier.