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I Remember

W.G. Sebald, 6 October 2011

... The day in the year after the fall of the Soviet Empire I shared a cabin on the ferry to the Hoek of Holland with a lorry driver from Wolverhampton. He & twenty others were taking super- annuated trucks to Russia but other than that he had no idea where they were heading. The gaffer was in control & anyway it was an adventure good money & all the driver said smoking a Golden Holborn in the upper bunk before going to sleep ...

I thought I saw Dante in Gonzagagasse

Jenny Diski: W.G. Sebald, 3 February 2000

by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
Harvill, 263 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 1 86046 623 0
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... the time that would have passed anyway, but there are those, like Beckett and, it would seem, W.G. Sebald, who, in addition to being compelled like the rest of us, are condemned to meditate on their compulsion. It makes for a melancholy disposition, if not for occasional attacks of madness, but somebody’s got to do it. Memory has been the circling motif of ...

What was it that so darkened our world?

Benjamin Markovits: W.G. Sebald, 18 October 2001

by W.G. Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell.
Hamish Hamilton, 415 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 241 14125 7
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... by reality, larded with technical terms.’ Stepping inside the mind (or prose) of W.G. Sebald elicits a similar reaction – at any rate, it is always a relief to step outside again. Inside, the light is rather painful, the chairs austere and uncomfortable, the room cold and, though beautifully furnished, somewhat dusty. And always, from the ...

The German Ocean

D.J. Enright: Suffolk Blues, 17 September 1998

The Rings of Saturn 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
Harvill, 296 pp., £15.99, June 1998, 1 86046 398 3
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... Change and decay in all around we see. As one of W.G. Sebald’s epigraphs points out, the rings of Saturn are probably fragments of a moon, broken up by tidal effect when its orbit decayed. In August 1992, we are told, Sebald walked through coastal Suffolk. Possibly because of the ‘paralysing horror’ caused in him by the traces of destruction he observed, a year later he was admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital ‘in a state of almost total immobility ...

On That Terrible Night …

Christian Schütze: The wartime bombing of Germany, 21 August 2003

On the Natural History of Destruction 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14126 5
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Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-45 
by Jörg Friedrich.
Propyläen, 592 pp., €25, November 2002, 3 549 07165 5
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by Gert Ledig, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Granta, 200 pp., £8.99, May 2003, 1 86207 565 4
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... responses to the wartime bombing of their country, delivered in Zurich in the autumn of 1997, W.G. Sebald asked why ‘the sense of unparalleled national humiliation felt by millions in the last years of the war had never really found verbal expression, and those directly affected by the experience neither shared it with each other nor passed it on to the next ...

Probably Quite Coincidental

Michael Wood: Silences for Sebald, 6 January 2022

Speak, Silence: In Search of W.G. Sebald 
by Carole Angier.
Bloomsbury, 617 pp., £30, August 2021, 978 1 5266 3479 5
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... of a post-mortem examination, that the unnatural death had a natural cause: a heart attack. W.G. Sebald lost control of the car he was driving, and it crashed into an oncoming lorry. He died ‘before the impact’. Many of his friends thought differently: there had been too many earlier accidents in which Sebald had been ...


Jonathan Coe, 20 March 1997

The Emigrants 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
Harvill, 237 pp., £14.99, June 1996, 1 86046 127 1
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... of birth and who find it almost (or in some cases entirely) insupportable to settle elsewhere. Sebald’s tact – in choosing when to record, and when to invent, and in finding a suitable voice (neither too timid nor too intrusive) in which to register his characters’ pain – informs each of the four discrete episodes. First of all we encounter Henry ...

On Orford Ness

Sam Kinchin-Smith: ‘Afterness’, 23 September 2021

... Orford’s appeal. The National Trust has been soliciting tourism to the Ness for years, with W.G. Sebald as bait. ‘When I was first in Orford,’ he writes in The Rings of Saturn, ‘it was forbidden to approach “the island”, but now there was no obstacle to going there, since, some years before, the Ministry of Defence had abandoned secret research at ...

I’m here to be mad

Christopher Benfey: Robert Walser, 10 May 2018

Walks with Robert Walser 
by Carl Seelig, translated by Anne Posten.
New Directions, 127 pp., £11.99, May 2017, 978 0 8112 2139 9
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Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories 
by Robert Walser, translated by Tom Whalen, Nicole Köngeter and Annette Wiesner.
NYRB, 181 pp., £9.99, October 2016, 978 1 68137 016 3
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... a believable portrait of a literary figure who remains – despite the highest praise from W.G. Sebald and Susan Sontag, among other admirers – stubbornly elusive. It has not always been easy, for Anglophone readers in particular, to place Walser’s strange productions. Kafka, who admired Walser’s newspaper work, is the inevitable comparison. The ...

The Method of Drifting

Ian Patterson: John Craske, 10 September 2015

Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske 
by Julia Blackburn.
Cape, 344 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 224 09776 5
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... In​ the final pages of The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald imagined ‘the depths of despair into which those can be driven who, even after the end of the working day, are engrossed in their intricate designs and who are pursued, into their dreams, by the feeling that they have got hold of the wrong thread’. Sebald was talking about weavers, but the feeling must be common to all sorts of artists, and to researchers, too ...

Pods and Peds

Caroline Maclean: Iain Sinclair, 18 November 2004

Dining on Stones, or, The Middle Ground 
by Iain Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 449 pp., £16.99, April 2004, 0 241 14236 9
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... on foot. J.G. Ballard is a ‘pod-meister. Suburban solipsism: world in a windscreen’; W.G. Sebald is a ped who loses himself ‘in the rhythms of the walk’. Sinclair is a ped with pod-envy: he can’t stop hanging around motorways. Dining on Stones indulges in narrative games, shifting between fiction, autobiography and history. As Norton sets out on ...

Sent East

James Wood: Sebald’s ‘Austerlitz’, 6 October 2011

... In the summer of 1967, a man who remains unnamed but who resembles the author W.G. Sebald is visiting Belgium. At the Centraal Station in Antwerp, he sees a fellow traveller, with fair, curiously wavy hair, who is wearing heavy walking boots, workman’s trousers made of blue calico and a well-made but antiquated jacket ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke, 22 May 2014

Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... and sometimes rival, Thomas Bernhard, and as it was with one of his finest critics, W.G. Sebald. In Essay on the Jukebox, the second volume in the series Handke has recently finished, he, or a narrator quite like him, tells of how, in writing, he moved a cypress he’d seen in Cologne to Indianapolis, and a stable he’d visited from Salzburg to ...

The Real Woman in the Real Cupboard

Benjamin Markovits: Jenny Erpenbeck, 30 June 2011

by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky.
Portobello, 176 pp., £7.99, July 2011, 978 1 84627 190 8
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... In the fourth section of The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald (or rather, his narrative alter ego) travels back to Germany from Norwich to look into the childhood of Max Ferber, an artist based loosely on Frank Auerbach. At 15 Ferber had been sent to England by his parents, who were eventually murdered in the camps at Riga ...

I am the decider

Hal Foster: Agamben, Derrida and Santner, 17 March 2011

The Beast and the Sovereign. Vol. I 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoffrey Bennington.
Chicago, 349 pp., £24, November 2009, 978 0 226 14428 3
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... law’ – is close to bare life. But he adds two important touchstones of his own, Kafka and W.G. Sebald, some of whose characters, caught between human and nonhuman states, or stranded in the vertiginous space of exile, allow Santner to imagine bare life from the position of homo sacer, on ‘the threshold where life takes on its specific biopolitical ...

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