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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 ...

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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... do with our considerable spare brain capacity. Well, we have to do something with it, and it passes 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 ...

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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... step inside his skull. ‘She’d be stopping her ears,’ he decided, ‘against the incessant recital/Intoned 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 ...

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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... In a series of lectures on German 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 ...

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 ...


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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...  some real and some imagined, some Jewish and some not – who are forced to leave their countries 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 ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke

21 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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... The blend of fact and fiction is confounding by design, as it was with his fellow countryman, contemporary 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 ...

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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... and memories’. Sinclair divides authors into ‘pods’ and ‘peds’, writers in cars and writers 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 ...

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 ...

The Method of Drifting

Ian Patterson: John Craske

9 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 ...

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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... Wanderungen in both terrain and language. Seelig’s memoir is specially welcome in offering 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 ...

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 ...

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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... emergency, that paradoxical domain in which law has been suspended in the name of preserving 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 ...


Marina Warner: Dear Old Khayyám

9 April 2009
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám 
by Edward Fitzgerald, edited by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 167 pp., £9.99, January 2009, 978 0 19 954297 0
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... that he effectively had to back-translate FitzGerald’s quatrains into Persian. Baron Corvo did a version; Augustus John supplied the images for a translation into Romany Welsh. More recently, W.G.Sebald searched out FitzGerald’s grave in the churchyard in the village of Boulge in Suffolk, and, in the same way that FitzGerald chose to speak through Omar Khayyám, Sebald seems in The Rings of Saturn ...

Aberdeen rocks

Jenny Turner: Stewart Home

9 May 2002
69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess 
by Stewart Home.
Canongate, 182 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 9781841951829
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... the two of them discuss the books he has been reading as they go. Writers under discussion include Michael Bracewell, Dick Hebdige, Lynne Tillman, Kathy Acker, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Johnson, W.G.Sebald. The eateries and supermarkets of Aberdeen are visited, and rendered, as far as I can see, entirely accurately. (I come from Aberdeen, which is how I’d know.) Ditto the hills walked and the stone ...

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