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Sebald, W. G.

britain past german stories

(German, 1944–2001)

Sebald lived and worked in Britain for more than thirty years, but wrote in German and is published in his adopted homeland in translation. His writing interweaves bizarre and moving incidents from Sebald's life with even stranger stories from the lives of the famous, and the histories of places in Germany, Britain, Italy, and elsewhere. Start with Vertigo (1990) which tells four related stories about melancholia, obsession, and vertigo, and manages to be weirdly funny as well as disturbing. The Rings of Saturn (1995) describes a long walk down the Suffolk coast and meditates upon the violence as well as the pleasures of our shared past. The Emigrants (1993) is a poignant account of four Jewish exiles living in Britain. The English translations by Michael Hulse are as lyrical and exhilarating as Sebald's own prose. Sebald's fourth novel to be translated into English was Austerlitz (2001); typically for Sebald, this story of the adult Jaques Austerlitz who tries to reconstruct his forgotten past as a kindertransport child uses exquisite language in its exploration of memory and how we choose to relate to our past.

Günter Grass, Joseph Conrad. See GERMANY  TT

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