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?
December 27, 2009
This announcement is quoted from Will Self’s website:
Will Self is going to be giving the annual WG Sebald lecture at Kings Place in London on Monday 11 January at 7pm. Self will analyse Sebald’s Holocaust writing in the light of the evolving historical understanding of the Holocaust and the part the German people took in it. Self asks whether, when it comes to such crimes against humanity, it is possible for their [sic] to be a literature either by, or about, the perpetrators, and what purpose such writings might fulfil.
If anyone goes to hear Self, I’d love it if you would write up a report as a comment to this post.
February 8, 2009
For what it is worth, Will Self continues to think and write about W.G. Sebald. Perhaps not surprisingly, Self’s latest piece in The Guardian is considerably more about Self than Sebald. Self’s intention seems simple enough:
My decision to “reverse engineer” a Sebaldian piece of writing was an obvious one: I had a similar sensibility already, all I had to do was to take it for a walk and see what it came up with.
And I confess I was vaguely curious about the outcome, which, ultimately, Self declares to be a success. I’m not so sure.
Suffice to say, the reverse engineering worked, and having sent my own fictive alter ego walking along the collapsing cliffs of the Holderness coast, by the time my actual body arrived, it found the streets of Bridlington – normally thronged with holidaymakers during July – curiously empty. Moreover, as I plodded for mile after mile, I found myself in the uncanny position of activating those events that my alter ego had left, like psychic mantraps, waiting for me.
Well, read it for yourself.
[Thanks to the handful of Vertigo readers who tipped me off to this piece, which appeared in The Guardian February 7, 2009.]
November 29, 2008
Will Self’s Writing Room (from a series of 71 photographs by Phil Grey, see them all at will-self.com)
Novelist Will Self, whose 2007 book Psychogeography resulted from the type of walks for which W.G. Sebald was famous, recently spoke in London about Sebald. Here’s a link to one audience member’s description of the evening. A few months ago, Self was also the keynote speaker at the University of East Anglia’s Sebald conference, where his speech was titled Reverse Engineering the Synoptic I, Towards an Understanding of W. G. Sebald’s Methodology.