what would i want? sky

22 images Created 11 Oct 2019

The only German word my mother remembers from her childhood is 'Trümmer' – debris. Hamburg was rebuilt after the war, but many of the fossil-like high bunkers and flak towers remain. Their concrete walls bear the imprint of the wooden formwork that moulded them, just as they now impress the city with a physical memory of its past.

These structures may be compared with funerary sites. The cemetery remembers and so does the city, but tower blocks and bunkers are its gravestones, its cenotaphs. Coming from the Greek κενοτάφιον, cenotaph means 'empty grave'; victims of heavy bombing may have no other.

My family left Germany in 1947 and I grew up on the outskirts of London – itself a wounded, palimpsestic city of concrete scar tissue from buildings that were no longer there.

To make a <i>book</i> in which London and Hamburg are bound together is to press together wounds. The concrete protrusions of one fit into the open space of the other, but neither should be considered empty: these hollow German bunkers and gaps in Victorian terraces all contain narratives of loss.
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