Cecilia Fox, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Cecilia Fox)
WG Sebald's writing has particular resonance for me. Born in Germany in 1944, he lived in England, wrote in German, and addresses many important issues of our age in his work. His work is unique, in that he somehow combines genres, appearing initially simply to be describing aspects of certain places, and of characters' lives, throughout much of a particular book As a reader, though, I discover time and again the unusual array he builds up throughout the length of a story, which often may concern history, architecture, memory, travel, and the many layers and levels of context in each individual life. He gradually teaches us to understand his perspective on the tragedy and richness of modern life.
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by Laura Miller, Salon.com,
"Austerlitz's story of loss and recovery has its own parallel in the conscience of Europe itself, and so it is that, by the end of Sebald's novel, a section on the inhuman architecture of Paris' monstrous new main library feels as though it's about modern history and the most elemental emotions all at once. Austerlitz is a book that unfolds in its readers' minds, gradually revealing, one by one, that the loveliest colors have not vanished from our world after all." (read the entire Salon.com review)
by John Banville, The New Republic,
"Sebald's work is reminiscent of the stories of Borges, of the mysterious pictorial conundrums of Escher, of the precisely vague films of Resnais, though he is much more emotionally affecting than any of those overly cerebral magicians. He is perhaps a direct descendant of Kafka, except that Sebald's books are blessedly free of the transcendent boringness that breathes out grayly from Kafka's novels, though not from the stories or the diaries. Anyway, seeking influences is particularly fruitless in the case of Sebald, for he is unique." (read the entire New Republic review)
by Lorin Stein, Esquire,
"A lover of Sebald's realist masterpieces can't read Austerlitz without feeling that it is an homage to the golden age of English realism: a dusting off of the old Victorian machinery to see how it does with a war-orphan at the end of the twentieth century. It does well, in Sebald's hands, but still it's an homage, and, as such, it's the last thing we'd have expected from a writer whose genius has seemed, until now, all his own." (read the entire Esquire review)
by Michael Gorra, Atlantic Monthly,
"It seems both pointless and inevitable to wonder if these talks ever actually took place; doubtless scholarship will someday tell us, as it will explain the enigmatic and eloquent photographs with which, as always, Sebald punctuates his text. But such knowledge will take nothing away from a melancholy at once exhilarating and too deep for tears. Anthea Bell's translation puts the slight fustiness of Sebald's German into an English that, however pellucid, is not quite of this time or quite English either — lovely." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
by W. S. Merwin,
"With untraceable swiftness and assurance, W. G. Sebald's writing conjures from the details and sequences of daily life, and their circumstances and encounters, from apparent chance and its unsounded calculus, the dimension of dream and a sense of the depth of time that make his books, one by one, indispensable. He evokes at once the minutiae and the vastness of individual existence, the inconsolable sorrow of history and the scintillating beauty of the moment and its ground of memory. Each book seems to be something that surely was impossible, and each (upon every re-reading) is unique and astonishing."
by Publishers Weekly,
"As Sebald's readers will expect, the novel is filled with scholarly digressions, ranging from the natural history of moths to the typically overbearing architecture of the Central European spas....Sebald writes as if Walter Benjamin's terrible 'angel of history' were perched on his shoulder."
by Dave Eggers, "who has no right to be commenting on this man",
"W. G. Sebald is a monster — a gorgeous and unwaveringly assured writer, a bold formal innovator, and a man always plunging into the core of identity, singular and national. In Austerlitz, he's created his richest and most emotionally devastating story, and this book might be his finest."
by Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review,
?Sebald stands with Primo Levi as the prime speaker of the Holocaust and, with him, the prime contradiction of Adorno?s dictum that after it, there can be no art.?
by Anthony Lane, The New Yorker,
?Sebald is a rare and elusive species . . . but still, he is an easy read, just as Kafka is. . . . He is an addiction, and once buttonholed by his books, you have neither the wish nor the will to tear yourself away.?
by Susan Sontag,
?Is literary greatness still possible? What would a noble literary enterprise look like? One of the few answers available to English-speaking readers is the work of W. G. Sebald.?
by Lightning Source,
In this story of an orphan's quest for his heritage after World War II, Sebald embodies in Austerlitz the universal human search for identity, the struggle to impose coherence on memory, and a struggle complicated by the mind's defenses against trauma.
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