Reading and Collecting W.G. Sebald
Shortly after Susan Sontag began writing about W. G. Sebald, I read The Emigrants and subsequently each of Sebald’s works as they appeared in English. I have often found myself drawn to non-American literature, but no one that I had read previously seemed to affect me the way Sebald’s writing did. Perhaps it was the sense of melancholy that subtly pervades everything he wrote that reverberated at my core. As someone who has always collected books, I at first became fascinated by the challenge of building a truly international collection that would include first editions of his books from the three different countries in which they appeared: his native Germany, his adopted England, and my home, America. As time went on, my collection has expanded to include all sorts of publications by and about Sebald.
My collection has also branched out into a somewhat unusual direction. Each of Sebald’s four works of fiction have paradoxically included photographs. Without rambling on at length in this post about the relationship between text and image in Sebald’s works, let me just say that I am fascinated by the complex way in which Sebald’s writing and uses of photographic imagery toy with the issues such as truth, history, and memory. The popularity of Sebald’s books seems to have led to a minor explosion in the use of photography in fictional works by other authors, including Umberto Eco, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Frederick Reuss (to name a few). It has also led me to explore the long but spotty history of photographs appearing within works of fiction in works by authors such as Ishmael Reed, Wright Morris, and the Surrealists – especially Andre Breton. Accordingly, I am building a collection of fiction that includes photographs as an integral part of the work of art, starting with Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-Morte of 1892 all the way up to the latest example published this year.
I am using this site – Vertigo: Collecting Sebald – to continue my personal exploration of Sebald’s writings, to share information about Sebald’s books and related topics, and to learn and experiment with WordPress. Comments welcomed.