"On that first day of November in 1980, preoccupied as i was with my notes and the ever widening and contracting circles of my thoughts, I became enveloped by a sense of utter emptinesses and never once left my room. It seemed to me then that one could well end one's life simply through thinking and retreating into one's mind, for, although I had closed the windows and the room was warm, my limbs were growing progressively colder and stiffer with my lack of movement, so that when at length the waiter arrived with the red wine and sandwiches i had ordered, i felt as if i had already been interred or laid out for burial, silently grateful for the proffered libation, but no longer capable of consuming it." [Vertigo]
Most of Sebald's work as you can find out just about anywhere, revolved around the concepts of memory, history, fact and fiction, and it would seem the inevitable annihilation of all these things and their creators... He goes from place to place, sometimes as himself, other times as perhaps Kafka, or an unnamed narrator. With German precision he recollects the exacting details of once bustling british seaside resort towns, or of some provincial Italian train station; or does he? was he ever there - have they ever existed? Chances are, they did - he has pictures of them that he puts in his books, pictures he finds, pictures he takes - but the locations, the names are in question or perhaps the type of wood used to make a clock was not english oak, like he explicitly pointed out... these are after all, some kind of dream, or subjective recollection of a past spilled over with fantasy and emotion...
excerpt from a Guardian interview:
Maya Jaggi: Jacques Austerlitz [from the book "Austerlitz"] recovers memories in his 50s of having arrived in Britain from Prague on the Kindertransport. Much of your work is about memory: its unreliability, its shattering return after being repressed. Does literature have a special role to play in remembrance?
WG Sebald: The moral backbone of literature is about that whole question of memory. To my mind it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives. But it is something you cannot possibly escape: your psychological make-up is such that you are inclined to look back over your shoulder. Memory, even if you repress it, will come back at you and it will shape your life. Without memories there wouldn't be any writing: the specific weight an image or phrase needs to get across to the reader can only come from things remembered - not from yesterday but from a long time ago. |the rest|
His novel "The Rings of Saturn" remains his most effecting work on this subject, and probably one of the heaviest peices of writing i've ever read, (again and again... )
That he died suddenly in a car accident 6 years ago seems to hammer home his themes of memory and destruction. At any rate, it makes me sit and think, when i should be writing code and fixing other peoples mistakes. (Which i should add, i'm no good at - i got my hands full w/ my own.)
I took some photos at The Shelburne Inn last summer while staying the weekend with Eva and paired them with excerpts from "Rings" and "The Emigrants" for a post a while back, you can see them here