May 4, 2013
The German Bookshop in London is having an event with Uwe Schütte on May 22 at 19.00.
We are delighted to have the author of W.G. Sebald. Einführung in Leben & Werk, Uwe Schütte, with us to introduce you to many little known aspects of the life and work of W.G. Sebald. His book was published in autumn 2011 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of his premature death. It provides new biographical material and examines all major literary works. In addition, a chapter on Sebald’s critical writings sheds an interesting light on a neglected yet crucial part of his oeuvre. Schütte came to the University of East Anglia in 1992 to do both his MA and PhD with Sebald as his supervisor. He is a Reader in German at Aston University, Birmingham and the author of ten books on German literature, as well as numerous articles and reviews in national papers in Germany and Austria.
The event is free but requires an email reservation. For details, follow this link and scroll down a bit.
Lucie CAMPOS et Raphaëlle GUIDÉE : W.G. Sebald, la marge et le centre.
W.G. SEBALD : « Mais l’écrit n’est pas un vrai document… »
François HARTOG : Le simultané du non-simultané.
Romain BONNAUD : Une expérience de l’histoire.
Sergio CHEJFEC : L’histoire comme représentation et comme peine.
Ruth KLÜGER : Cheminant entre la vraie vie et la vie fausse.
Raphaëlle GUIDÉE : Politique de la catastrophe.
Ben HUTCHINSON : « L’ombre de la résistance ». W.G. Sebald et l’École de Francfort.
Lucie CAMPOS : L’excès du savoir et du sentiment.
Patrick CHARBONNEAU : Max et le bélier hydraulique.
Karine WINKELVOSS : Pathos et théâtralité dans la prose de Sebald.
Muriel PIC : Élégies documentaires.
Emmanuel BOUJU : Mind the gap ! Humour et exil de la mélancolie.
Liliane LOUVEL : Un événement de lecture.
Mandana COVINDASSAMY : Le dépaysement en pratique.
Ruth VOGEL-KLEIN : Dans l’atelier de W.G. Sebald.
Martin RASS : Le bruit du passage du train.
Jean-Christophe BAILLY : Le troc silencieux de W.G. Sebald.
Fabrice GABRIEL : « Enjoy ».
Lucie TAÏEB : Sans histoire, pas d’histoire ?
Finally, over at The Public Domain Review, Adam Green has done all Sebald readers a great service with his elegantly conceived project “Texts in Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.” Here is his description of the undertaking:
Collected together in this post are the major (public domain) texts of which, and through which, Sebald speaks – accompanied by extracts in which the texts are mentioned. The list begins and ends with the great polymath Thomas Browne, an appropriate framing as the work of this 17th century Norfolk native has a presence which permeates the whole book. Indeed, in the way he effortlessly moves through different histories and voices, it is perhaps in Browne’s concept of the ‘Eternal Present’ which Sebald can be seen to operate, in this mysterious community of the living and the dead.
April 23, 2013
Sebald was always asking us to reflect on how we access the past, how we rescue the dead, and how the writer performs that real, but necessarily fictional, reclamation. – James Wood
The Guardian has published an except from the much awaited publication of A Place in the Country, Jo Catling’s English translation of W.G. Sebald’s Logis in einem Landhaus (1998), an important collection of essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp. (The Guardian‘s excerpt is drawn from the section on Rousseau.) Here’s an excerpt from their excerpt.
The room I took at the hotel looked out on the south side of the building, directly adjacent to the two rooms which Jean-Jacques Rousseau occupied when, in September 1765, exactly 200 years before my first sight of the island from the top of the Schattenrain, he found refuge here, at least until the Berne Petit Conseil drove him out from even this last outpost of his native land…At any rate, in the few days I spent on the island – during which time I passed not a few hours sitting by the window in the Rousseau room – among the tourists who come over to the island on a day trip for a stroll or a bite to eat, only two strayed into this room with its sparse furnishings – a settee, a bed, a table and a chair – and even those two, evidently disappointed at how little there was to see, soon left again. Not one of them bent down to look at the glass display case to try to decipher Rousseau’s handwriting, nor noticed the way that the bleached deal floorboards, almost two feet wide, are so worn down in the middle of the room as to form a shallow depression, nor that in places the knots in the wood protrude by almost an inch. No one ran a hand over the stone basin worn smooth by age in the antechamber, or noticed the smell of soot which still lingers in the fireplace, nor paused to look out of the window with its view across the orchard and a meadow to the island’s southern shore.
In conjunction with this excerpt, the Guardian also ran an article in which James Wood, Iain Sinclair, Robert Macfarlane and Will Self “reflect on what his work means to them.” The comments posted by Guardian readers make for very interesting reading, as well. A Place in the Country, is scheduled for release May 2 of this year and is available for pre-order from various book sites in England. It will also be available for Kindle then.
April 19, 2013
“This material,” the back page explains, “in an earlier form, was part of the first draft of American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light, a book due to be published in November 2013. It was decided, as the text moved through later stages in the editing process, that a London detour might be confusing. Now it stands alone.” That excerpt, Iain Sinclair’s Austerlitz & After: Tracking Sebald, has just been released as a chapbook that packs a real punch for its mere 28-pages.
This being Iain Sinclair, the reader should not be surprised to find that the Sebald pages are framed by a narrative of murder and dismemberment. During a morning walk in Hackney, Sinclair happened upon the crime scene where parts of the body of soap opera actress Gemma McCluskie had surfaced in the brown sludge of Regent’s Canal. The crime scene becomes a site of tribute and remembrance, “making murder into a soap-opera tragedy.”
Wreaths, flowers, bears, cards appear, overnight, woven into the fence, above the lock where the torso was found. Yellows and purples. Deep reds and pinks. Carnations, tulips, lilies. In funnels of cellophane and twists of green paper.
This tawdry story (she was murdered by her brother) helps displace Sebald from the East Anglian landscape where he lived and with which he has become inextricably identified, for Sinclair’s elegiac, almost tender, narrative is largely a tale of Sebald in urban London. It also serves as a contrast for the way in which Sinclair wants to memorialize Sebald. As Sinclair tracks Sebald through the neighborhoods of London, sometimes accompanied by the poet Stephen Watts, he writes about places that Sebald researched and wrote about in Austerlitz. Sinclair and Watts visit places like Liverpool Station and the Jewish burial ground in Brady Street that Sebald would have seen as his Norwich train approached Liverpool Street. Watts recalls stories of Sebald’s rucksack (which became Austerlitz’s rucksack) and of Sebald trawling through shoeboxes of old postcards in Spitalfields Market. Sinclair wants to unravel the “quiet cult of managed melancholy” that has been building up around Sebald’s legend, and so he gives us a Sebald who is flawed, worried, curious, determined, ill.
I wondered if Sebald ever wrote about driving. The published books present a man most comfortable with a scenario of waiting: station hotels, Swiss lakes, distant views of snow-capped mountains, flights into northern cities, walks through marches on sandy paths. Waiting for that single justifying encounter: the trapdoor of memory, the skewed quotation. the echo of a translated text.
Perhaps it takes someone as eclectic as Sinclair (whose website describes him as “a british writer, documentarist, film maker, poet, flaneur, metropolitan prophet and urban shaman, keeper of lost cultures and futurologist”) to give us a glimpse of a Sebald who seems, momentarily, at least, whole.
[Note added April 20, 2013: In a most curious coincidence, the day after I originally posted this, The Guardian published an essay by James Woods in which Sinclair says: "I only set eyes on Max Sebald one time. We shared a descending lift in Broadcasting House, pressed back into our safe corners, silent. He impersonated what I took him to be – writer, walker, culturally burdened European – so beautifully that I wondered if this was an actor, a hireling." This is not the impression Sinclair leaves in Austerlitz & After, where he is more coy about his actual relationship with Sebald. Sinclair rather seamlessly blends Watts recollections into his own narrative, leaving it less than clear who actually spent time with Sebald.]
Austerlitz & After is a publication of Test Centre in London. It was beautifully produced in a limited edition of 300 copies. Twenty-six copies (all now sold) were specially bound in buckram covers. Here is a view of the “extra holographic material” added to the copy which I managed to purchase.
April 18, 2013
About two months ago I wrote about an exhibition I had seen at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City called “The Magnificent Collection of Gilbert G. Hargrove” and its accompanying publication The Hargrove Family History. The objects in display in that exhibition were (for the most part) truly from the museum’s collection, but the collectors were fake. The “Hargrove family” had been created out of thin air by the curators. Now, Mark Dion, an artist I admire and whose work I have written about before, has created a similar installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts called “The Curator’s Room.” There is a description of Dion’s project on the MIA website (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find his name), but there is an excellent review with photographs at the ArtNews website. For Minneapolis, Dion has created a fictitious curator whose perfectly preserved office was uncovered during a renovation.
Dion’s art usually investigates the meaning of museums, often turning the museum itself into the subject of his exhibitions. Clearly some of the fun of Dion’s installation (which I have not seen in person) is the way in which it also becomes a period room, a simulacrum that shows how a room’s furnishings reflects a specific moment in time. “The Curator’s Office” offers a look back at a time when the museum profession was very different indeed, when original objects were often casually housed in offices, when cataloging records were on 3 x 5 index cards, and when the museum staff still smoked in their offices.
“The Curator’s Office” is part of an exhibition called “More Real: Art in the Age of Truthiness,” which is on view through June 9, 2013.
Installation view of Mark Dion’s “The Curator’s Office” courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
April 5, 2013
After writing a post not long ago on a book about a small provincial river in France – it seems more than fitting to follow up with a book about a small provincial river in England. Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s just-released book Silt Road: The Story of a Lost River unearths (quite literally) the meandering path and lost history of the Wey, a more or less obscure river about halfway between London and Oxford. The Wey is but seven winding miles in length and one can drive from its source to the point where it disappears forever in a half hour. But with dual epigraphs from Yeats’ poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus” and from W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants, Rangeley-Wilson signals that Silt Road is ambitious and intends to transgress typical book categories.
The premise of Silt Road is simple: the author, a well-respected authority on trout fishing around the world, becomes intrigued and then obsessed by a local stream that seemingly harbors the occasional trout. Efforts to track it from start to finish fail, as the river keeps disappearing underground, under highways, into drainage culverts, beneath buildings. The hide-and-seek game of where is the river soon leads to why and when. Why does the river disappear so often and when did all that happen? As it turns out, Rangeley-Wilson’s obsessiveness is matched ounce for ounce by his dogged research skills, and slowly Rangeley-Wilson peels away at the strata of history literally beneath his feet and the rather astonishing history of the Wye is revealed. We learn about the erotic exploits of the well-named Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781) and his randy fellows whose gatherings in the wood by the Wye were both satanic and priapic. We learn that much of the local machinery destroyed by the Luddite riots of the 1830s was thrown in the Wye. We learn that the local beech forests (now nearly wiped out) supplied the wood for the classic Windsor chair and that chair makers in the area were producing 4,500 chairs a day late in the nineteenth century. We learn that, until specimens were exported from the Wye, the entire southern hemisphere of this planet had no trout.
It takes a bit of hubris and a dash of humor to give a book about a polluted little river in England a title that will surely call to mind the great Silk Road that once spanned Asia, but I give Rangeley-Wilson credit for keeping me thoroughly engaged. His message is that, properly told, local history can become universal. As a reader, I felt as if I had stowed away in Rangeley-Wilson’s rucksack as he tromped around the fringes of English villages and conducted his research, employing everything from satellite maps to aging reels of microfiche to interviews in local pubs over a few pints. Silt Road pays polite homage to Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn in the way Rangeley-Wilson blends the genres of history, exploration, autobiography, and such, and also in the use of his own snapshots and reproductions of historic images and documents as illustrative material. But Rangeley-Wilson can also veer off into the industrial wastelands and working-class districts more frequently found in the books of Iain Sinclair.
I also give him credit for insisting on depth rather than breadth and sticking with his subject for the entire book. (It helps that he writes damned well.) This is a book that is already being compared to works by Roger Deakin and Robert MacFarlane, two authors who can’t seem to stay in one place for more than a chapter. As much as I appreciate Deakin’s classic Waterlog, I find it a bit disconcerting that every chapter begins by setting off for new territory. I often feel that Deakin was at his best when he just stayed home and wrote about his own backyard. In Silt Road, Charles Rangeley-Wilson sticks to his own neighborhood and it pays off.