Sebald

A good friend, Nollaig Kirby introduced me to W G Sebald  a very long time ago; he gave me to read, On the Natural History of Destruction. A stunning if scary story of the allied bombing of Germany from the ground level. Probably all I had read up to then had been the Allied view from “on top’ where the cause was just and Germany was defeated. Truth is, the destruction of Germany was also the destruction of humankind without concern for the consequences. History is written large by the victors; the events hurting the people on the ground evaporate  just as the people’s bodies evaporated in the apocalyptic furnaces generated by fire bombing. No matter what, the consequences are measured good vs bad as opposed to the reality of the trauma on the ground.

Sebald was essentially  concerned with the German ‘loss of memory.’ A loss of memory which is a general glide into a negation of anything having happened in the 1933-45 period rather than a deliberate attempt to deny things  which had happened. It was the sliding into a neglected backwater where no one ventured or revisited. It was easier to draw this blank over what had happened than accept that families; parents, grandparents, siblings had accepted or had  benefitted from National Socialism. In the mid 1970s I had met and taught a group of very literate German students. The main body were teachers from Bavaria and under 30. One of the group, however was a man in his 60s who had been a  Naval Architect responsible for the development of the Submarine pens in Brest, France. The use of slave labour was never acknowledge, the living and working conditions and ensuing  deaths were never acknowledged and that was not at my questioning, but the questions and demands from the new generation of Germans,  who are ashamed of their  National History and denial of responsibility. 

A year later, I was in Austria and with a close friend and her parents; the father was very clear of his views:- Hitler and the Anschluss were the best things to happen  to Austria. The country was rescued from the aftermath of the loss of Empire post 1918 and the economic decline . He was a medical doctor; well -to-do and totally fluent in English! No chance of mis-interpretation then!! He had been a doctor in the German Army during the period 1938-45 and had never seen, heard of  or experienced anything of the abuses revealed post war! His attitude to the Jewish Question was really that it was a ‘problem’ that needed solution… At that point or very close to it, I left the table. My shins were bruised from the kicks  from my friend which I had received to stop me responding. Memory, it was submerged deliberately and his wife and daughters had never questioned or even been aware of this strand of history. Forty years later, I still hold both memories vividly to mind. 

In Sebald, this escape into a construct which denies wat happened is the the modus operandi used. Memories are masked by a cloud of self-denial. It’s obviously easier to forget than confront! 

Max Sebald

This is the Wikipedia entry for Max Sebald aka W G Sebald

Winfried Georg Sebald (18 May 1944 – 14 December 2001), known as W. G. Sebald or Max Sebald, was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics as one of the greatest living authors[citation needed] and had been tipped as a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.[1] In a 2007 interview, Horace Engdahl, former secretary of the Swedish Academy, mentioned Sebald, Ryszard Kapuściński and Jacques Derrida as three recently deceased writers who would have been worthy laureates.[2]

Life

Sebald was born in WertachBavaria and was one of three children of Rosa and Georg Sebald. From 1948 to 1963, he lived in Sonthofen.[3] His father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis. His father remained a detached figure, a prisoner of war until 1947; a grandfather was the most important male presence in his early years. Sebald was shown images of the Holocaust while at school in Oberstdorf and recalled that no one knew how to explain what they had just seen. The Holocaust and post-war Germany loom large in his work.

Sebald studied German and English literature first at the University of Freiburg and then at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, where he received a degree in 1965.[4] He was a Lector at the University of Manchester from 1966 to 1969. He returned to St. Gallen in Switzerland for a year hoping to work as a teacher but could not settle. Sebald married his Austrian-born wife, Ute, in 1967. In 1970 he became a lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA). There, he completed his PhD in 1973 with a dissertation entitled “The Revival of Myth: A Study of Alfred Döblin’s Novels”.[5][6] Sebald acquired habilitation from the University of Hamburg in 1986.[7] In 1987, he was appointed to a chair of European literature at UEA. In 1989 he became the founding director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. He lived at Wymondham and Poringland while at UEA.

Sebald died while driving near Norwich in December 2001. The coroner’s report, released some six months later, stated that Sebald had suffered an aneurysm and had died of this condition before his car swerved across the road and collided with an oncoming lorry.[8] He was driving with his daughter Anna, who survived the crash.[9] He is buried in St. Andrew’s churchyard in Framingham Earl, close to where he lived.

In 2011, Grant Gee made the documentary Patience (After Sebald) about the author’s trek through the East Anglian landscape.[10]

Work[

Sebald’s works are largely concerned with the themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay (of civilizations, traditions or physical objects). They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German people. In On the Natural History of Destruction(1999), he wrote a major essay on the wartime bombing of German cities and the absence in German writing of any real response. His concern with the Holocaust is expressed in several books delicately tracing his own biographical connections with Jews.[citation needed]

His distinctive and innovative novels were written in an intentionally somewhat old-fashioned and elaborate German (one passage in Austerlitz famously contains a sentence that is 9 pages long), but are well known in English translations (principally by Anthea Bell and Michael Hulse) which Sebald supervised closely. They include VertigoThe EmigrantsThe Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. They are notable for their curious and wide-ranging mixture of fact (or apparent fact), recollection and fiction, often punctuated by indistinct black-and-white photographs set in evocative counterpoint to the narrative rather than illustrating it directly. His novels are presented as observations and recollections made while travelling around Europe. They also have a dry and mischievous sense of humour.[citation needed]

Sebald was also the author of three books of poetry: For Years Now with Tess Jaray (2001), After Nature (1988), and Unrecounted (2004).

Works[

  • 1988 After Nature. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Nach der Natur. Ein Elementargedicht) English ed. 2002
  • 1990 Vertigo. London: Harvill. (Schwindel. Gefühle) English ed. 1999
  • 1992 The Emigrants. London: Harvill. (Die Ausgewanderten. Vier lange Erzählungen) English ed. 1996
  • 1995 The Rings of Saturn. London: Harvill. (Die Ringe des Saturn. Eine englische Wallfahrt) English ed. 1998
  • 1998 A Place in the Country. (Logis in einem Landhaus.) English ed. 2013
  • 1999 On the Natural History of Destruction. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Luftkrieg und Literatur: Mit einem Essay zu Alfred Andersch) English ed. 2003
  • 2001 Austerlitz. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Austerlitz)
  • 2001 For Years Now. London: Short Books.
  • 2003 Unrecounted London: Hamish Hamilton. (Unerzählt, 33 Texte) English ed. 2004
  • 2003 Campo Santo London: Hamish Hamilton. (Campo Santo, Prosa, Essays) English ed. 2005
  • 2008 Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964–2001. (Über das Land und das Wasser. Ausgewählte Gedichte 1964–2001.) English ed. 2012

Influences[

The works of Jorge Luis Borges, especially “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius“, were a major influence on Sebald. (Tlön and Uqbar appear in The Rings of Saturn.)[11]Sebald himself credited the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard as a major influence on his work,[12] and paid homage within his work to Kafka[13] and Nabokov (the figure of Nabokov appears in every one of the four sections of The Emigrants).[14]

Time stood still then returned to a semblance of normality.

Almost 12 months since I added anything to this site and a lot has happened in these days. Time however stood still in that I never found time to put word on screen nor did   I count the cost that being so lazy would mean.

In 2018, I managed to celebrate a whole range of ‘anniversaries.’ There is no list of priorities or of ‘valuation’ of these events in their listing:-

1948-2018 June 3rd: 70th birthday

1978-2018 September: I started to live and work in London

1998-2018 December: 20 years since ‘ungraciously’ encouraged to leave St Thomas More

1993-2018 May 31: 25 Years married

All in all a great catalogue of events only topped by watching my first Crystal Palace match, at Selhurst Park, with Malcolm Hopper. 7th October 1978:- Palace 3-0 Brighton. Malcolm’s brother was there, in disguise, as he lived in Brighton and was a fan.

 

 

A ‘wake up call’ in October

I’m a waster of time in the sense that my time use doesn’t produce physical or measurable results which others would deem product!

My time has been spent, since my retirement, in 2013, reading, writing a book reading log and riding my bikes.( A simplistic 3 Rs )  In 2015, Mary retired and to that tally of activities, travel has become more to the fore. Canada, USA, both in the ‘Fall’ and to ‘The Deep South’ followed by Vietnam and later, Japan. Interspersed with these epic travels, we have had several trips to Leicester, Durham and Southwold, then add in Benalmádena x2 , Munich and Cork and that’s a huge carbon footprint.

If that wasn’t enough, we have Cornwall, Benalmádena and Malaysia in the diary and then there’s the event/events which may or may not occur to celebrate the triple anniversaries of marriage, big birthday and house purchase. Being me, small scale trumps big!