Tuesday, October 4, 2011


There is an excellent profile of W. G. Sebald here (hat tip to the wife). The reference to his death as not a surprise seemed odd (he died in a car crash), but is explained in the comments at the end. If you don't know his work you might want to know that he was widely regarded as being a potential Nobel Prize winner and that Wittgenstein crops up from time to time in his novels. For a brief and wonderful time you could buy brand new copies of all his literary works for 99 cents each at overstock.com. I think those days are over though.


  1. New name to me. Do you have any recommendations of the best novel of his with which to begin? Thanks.

  2. According to that article, The Rings of Saturn is "probably his best book," and that's the one I remember liking the most. But The Emigrants might be the one to start with. His books sort of blur together in my mind because I read them in a relatively short space of time, but I think there are four memoir-ish novels. So you might want to read them in order, and The Emigrants was published before the others in the US. Here's what amazon says about it:

    Published to enormous critical acclaim in the US, The Emigrants has been acclaimed as "one of the best novels to appear since World War II" (Review of Contemporary Fiction) and three times chosen as the 1996 International Book of the Year. The poignant and acclaimed novel about the beauty of lost things, while the protagonist traces the lives of four elderly German/Jewish exiles. The Emigrants is composed of four long narratives which at first appear to be the straightforward accounts of the lives of several Jewish exiles in England, Austria, and America. The narrator literally follows their footsteps, studding each story with photographs and creating the impression that the reader is poring over a family album. But gradually, Sebald's prose, which combines documentary description with almost hallucinatory fiction, exerts a new magic, and the four stories merge into one. Illustrated throughout with enigmatic photographs.

  3. Or you might want to read Austerlitz first, if you have any way of getting hold of this talk by Alice Crary.