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Following Adriadne’s Thread Back into the Maze

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The phrase “Ariadne’s thread” usually refers to the process of solving a maze or other complex problem through a physical trace (the mythical ball of thread) or a some method of recording and verifying one’s options and decisions. In Philippa Comber’s new memoir Ariadne’s Thread: In Memory of W.G. Sebald, the thread ultimately leads us back into the maze that was W.G. Sebald. In 1980, Comber, a young English-born psychotherapist living in Berlin whose marriage was “foundering,” moved to Norwich for a new job. In August 1981 she joined up with a small group of friends and others to see Roman Polanski’s movie Tess. Among the group was Sebald, then in his mid-thirties and a lecturer at the University of East Anglia.  Comber and Sebald hit it off. Read more

Sebald Miscellany August 2014

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Before I go on vacation for a spell, I thought I’d toss out two Sebald tidbits just to keep everyone occupied – advance news of an important new book about Sebald and a video lecture on Sebald’s work.

First, I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of a new Sebald-related memoir Ariadne’s Thread: In Memory of W.G. Sebald, by Philippa Comber. A full review will be forthcoming around September 1. It will be the first book published by the new Propolis Books, which originates from The Book Hive bookstore in Norwich. Here’s the promotional text for the book from The Book Hive’s Facebook page:

In 1981 a young woman, recently moved to Norwich after being appointed manager of a psychiatric day-care centre in the city, went with some friends to the now defunct Noverre Cinema to watch Polanski’s Tess. Having spent the previous years living in Germany, a place whose people and language had struck a chord deep within her after first visiting as a teenager, another man had been asked along to the cinema whom mutual friends had thought she might like to meet. His name was Max.

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McElroy’s Kidnap

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To read Joseph McElroy’s 1969 novel Hind’s Kidnap: A Pastoral on Familiar Airs (Harper & Row) is to be airlifted into the midst of a Joycean thicket of daily life, to find oneself privy to events, references, and conversations that you are not prepared to understand and which may never become clear. Amidst the New York City of one-term mayor John Lindsay and the student protest movement, Jack Hind is obsessed for years with the unsolved kidnapping of a young girl named Laurel Hershey (this was ten years before the real-life kidnapping of Etan Patz grabbed the headlines and put his photograph on milk cartons).  Spurred on by the mysterious appearance of a new clue, Hind again takes up the search for the long missing girl. but it is really the reader who gets kidnapped by McElroy and taken for a meandering trip through the mind and daily life of Hind and, for a brief spell, that of his wife Sylvia. Accustomed as we are to fictions that have edited out the extraneous, everything in McElroy’s second novel strikes us as extraneous at first. Like Hind, we find that we don’t know what constitutes a clue amongst all of the signs, conversations, and messages that he encounters daily. While Hind dutifully analyzes the trivia of his mostly ordinary life, the reader dutifully tries to analyze the overwhelming minutiae that McElroy fearlessly provides. Thus, Hind’s Kidnap sends both Hind and the reader on simultaneous searches for meaning.

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Sebald Reads his Essay on Gottfried Keller

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Another audio recording of W.G. Sebald has surfaced on the Internet. Over at Lesungen.net, there is a recording of Sebald reading nearly all of his essay “Her kommt der Tod die Zeit geht hin: Anmerkungen zu Gottfried Keller” from Logis in einem Landhaus (translated as “Death Draws Nigh, Time Marches On: Some Remarks on Gottfried Keller” in the English edition). Sebald was participating in one of Literarisches Colloquium Berlin’s Studio LCB project, along with several other specialists in German-language literature, but Sebald’s is the only recording from the November 25, 1997 session currently available. (Apparently the others have yet to give permission.) After a brief introduction to Logis, which appeared in print the following year, Sebald begins reading about eight pages into the essay, beginning with page 104 (page 102 in A Place in the Country). The recording then fades out 50:44 later as he reads the penultimate page of the essay.

“W.G. Sebald: Littérature et Éthique Documentaire” September Colloquium

 

chateau2It’s time to think about visiting France in September. The Centre Culturel International de Cerisy has announced a week-long colloquium on Sebald and the issue of documentary ethics in literature. It’s quite an impressive group of participants and it all takes place in a 17th century chateau. (Everything that follows is from the CCIC website, where there is this additional information, including details on each of the participants.)

“W.G. Sebald:  Littérature et Éthique Documentaire”

Monday Septembre 3 through Monday Septembre 10, 2014
DIRECTION : Mark ANDERSON, Muriel PIC, Jürgen RITTE

ARGUMENT : History is no longer the past but also the present in which the reader must act. (Andrew Bowie cité par Sebald dans Campo Santo) Read more

“Ambros Adelwarth” as Contemporary Dance

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The fabulous Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is currently working on a major new dance called Analogy, which involves using W.G. Sebald’s story of Ambros Adelwarth from The Emigrants as part of the program. Here’s the official description from the company’s website.

Analogy (working title) is the Company’s newest creation, currently in development. Bill T. Jones, along with Janet Wong (Associate Artistic Director of the Company) and the Company dancers, are developing a new evening-length work in two parts, focusing on the memory and the effect that powerful events have on the actions of individuals and-more importantly-on their often unexpressed inner life. In Analogy (working title), Jones continues to explore the intermingling of text, storytelling and movement, paying special attention to how new experiences can be had through the coalescing of these elements. Informing the work are two literary sources-an interview conducted by Jones with Dora Amelan (a French-Jewish nurse and social worker) chronicling her life experiences, as well as the story of Ambros Adelwarth, from W.G. Sebald’s celebrated historical novel, The Emigrants – that ruminate on the nature of service and duty, and inquire into the characteristics of a life well lived.

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Who Owns Words – Joseph McElroy’s “The Letter Left to Me”

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Who owns words? Can you inherit them? Do you have a special responsibility for words that have been written “to” you? These are just some of the questions raised by Joseph McElroy’s 1998 brief, rich novel The Letter Left to Me.

Inspired by Bibliomanic‘s intelligent passion for McElroy’s writing, I recently decided to dip back into my half shelf of McElroy’s books. I first encountered McElroy sometime in the early 1970s through A Smuggler’s Bible and have had a soft spot for his books ever since, especially Lookout Cartridge. I adore McElroy’s sentence-making and I’m attracted to the breadth of his interests, which includes technology, cognition, history, family, Brooklyn, sports, and more. Read more

Sebald and Photography – a Video Interview

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Spain’s Taller de Escritura Fuentetaja recently posted a short (5:05) video excerpt from a longer interview with W.G. Sebald, in which he talks about the role of photographs in his books. The interview is in English with Spanish subtitles. Although uncredited, it is a segment of the June 23, 1998 Amsterdam interview with Michaël Zeeman. The full text of the interview can be found in W.G. Sebald: History, Memory, Trauma. edited by Scott Denham and Mark McCulloh.
(Thanks, Juan and Kim!)

I would also point to a worthwhile article over at Numéro Cinq by Patrick Madden called “Walking, Researching, Remembering: W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn as Essay.”

Flaubert’s Grain of Sand

 Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés[photograph by Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés]

Here is a summer-themed post for all of those Vertigo readers who might find themselves on a beach in the coming months, trying to eject a few grains of sand from in between the toes.

On the opening page of The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald’s narrator reflects briefly upon the walk through the county of Suffolk which he is about to relate to us in the remainder of the book.

In retrospect I became preoccupied not only with the unaccustomed sense of freedom but also with the paralysing horror that had overcome me at times with the traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past, that were evident even in that remote place.

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The Flamethrowers

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In fiction, when someone is known only by the name of the place they came from, it’s often a sign that they will never be anything but an outsider wherever else they go. And that’s the case with the woman known only as Reno, the protagonist in Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers (Scribner’s 2013). The Flamethrowers is a thoroughly engaging and finely written, if utterly conventional, novel. It takes place in the 1970s at the Bonneville Salt Flats (the Utah location where world speed records are routinely made and broken), the New York City downtown art scene, and various locations in Italy. Reno is an aspiring artist and motorcycle aficionado who moves to New York City to take on the art world at more or less the very moment when money and power are starting to dictate the terms of New York’s increasingly vicious and competitive gallery scene. But in addition to hailing from faraway Nevada, Reno has two more strikes against her – she’s naive and she’s female – and she soon learns that the role she is expected to play is to compete for and sleep with the male artists. Read more

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