A Selftold Life

A Selftold Life

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A Selftold Life

Ernst Barlach
Translated from the German by Naomi Jackson Groves

7 X 10 inches, 104 pages
15 b&w plates

Ernst Barlach Drama & Artist Series
'THE BARLACH FAMILY'S PEACE OF MIND in general developed a face full of wrinkles and lost the smoothness of youth.... All in all, life's progress through changing time and space reminds me more and more of storming forward through a howling chaos, impelled by the urgent need to couple desire to destiny, with occasional breathing-spells of stillness and repose in freedom, acceptance, and deep-moved silence.'

With these words, Ernst Barlach captures his life's struggle as both a dramatist and a sculptor, offering us much more than a brief glimpse of the repose beyond the storm. Written during the summer of 1927, when Barlach was at the height of his powers and maturity as well as of his renown throughout Germany, A Selftold Life concentrates on the earlier life experiences and development of the artist as a man.

The translation by Naomi Jackson Groves is a sensitive rendering of Barlach's German style, referred to as "lapidary," and provides English-language readers with valuable insight into his genius.

Containing reproductions of fifteen significant artworks from throughout Barlach's career, A Selftold Life is both a visual and literary window through which to view his struggle.

Naomi Jackson Groves


Naomi Jackson Groves (1910-2001) has been a boon to Penumbra Press, helping to shape Penumbra's sensibility, while proffering an oeuvre that shows remarkable range. As a diarist, opening up the diaries from her youth abroad exploring the intellectual and artistic life of Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. As the author or editor of books about her uncle, Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson. ("A courageous little cuss" is how her uncle sized her up, after her wartime travel in waters infested by German submarines.) As the translator of works by Greenland artist and author, Jens Rosing. As the generous spirit encouraging several other Penumbra projects off the ground. She is renowned for her critical writing and translations of German sculptor and dramatist Ernst Barlach.

Naomi Jackson Groves specialized in German and northern languages. Born in Montreal in 1910, she would graduate from McGill University with a B.A. in 1933 and an M.A. in 1935, from Radcliffe College in 1937, and from Harvard with a Ph.D. in 1950. In addition to teaching German at McGill and Carleton Universities, she re-established and headed the Fine Arts Department at McMaster University (1951-57). Active into her tenth decade, she passed away in December of 2001.

Remembering Naomi Jackson Groves ...

Self Portrait, 1895: Copyright Ernst Barlach Lizenzverwaltung Ratzeburg

Ernst Barlach



Master of both visual and verbal creations but better known at first for his sculpture in ceramics and in wood, Barlach also wrote eight plays. All have become increasingly appreciated and performed, first in German-speaking countries, later in translation with many interpretations.

Further publications in the Barlach-in-translation series by Penumbra Press will include the remaining dramas, two novels, and some short, miscellaneous prose pieces. With five Barlach museums in Germany, frequent presentation of his plays, a new complete edition of his works being planned, Ernst Barlach (the Doubly-gifted) continues to thrive—and long may he last.

(Self Portrait, 1895: Copyright Ernst Barlach Lizenzverwaltung Ratzeburg)

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