Will Self’s Sebald Lecture
January 28, 2010
As several readers of Vertigo have mentioned, an “edited” version of Will Self’s January 11, 2010 lecture on W.G. Sebald has been published in the Times Online. Self touches on several of Sebald’s books and a cast of characters that includes Woody Allen, Albert Speer, Alexander Kluge,Bernhard Schlink, Hannah Arendt, and many others. It’s a complex, dense, thoughtful, broad ranging and controversial speech that is definitely worth reading. Here are a few quotes:
Sebald is rightly seen as the non-Jewish German writer who through his works did most to mourn the murder of the Jews.
To read Sebald is to be confronted with European history not as an ideologically determined diachronic phenomenon – as proposed by Hegelians and Spenglerians alike – nor as a synchronic one to be subjected to Baudrillard’s postmodern analysis. Rather, for Sebald, history is a palimpsest, the meaning of which can only be divined by rubbing away a little bit here, adding on some over there, and then – most importantly – stepping back to allow for a synoptic view that remains inherently suspect.
In England, Sebald’s one-time presence among us – even if we would never be so crass as to think this, let alone articulate it – is registered as further confirmation that we won, and won because of our righteousness, our liberality, our inclusiveness and our tolerance. Where else could the Good German have sprouted so readily?