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More on Walking in Sebald’s Footsteps

Yesterday I wrote about a report that the next book by British author Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places) might be about “retracing the walking tours of the late WG Sebald.” Today, The Scotsman posted an article by David Robinson which suggests this idea isn’t cast in concrete just yet. Robinson reports that Macfarlane

thinks that his next book, which started out as being about the German experimental non-fiction writer WG Sebald, “might soon mutate into looking at lost places, drowned places. I was thinking intently about this even before the Tewkesbury floods – about places that give us an inkling of our possible environmental future. With sea levels rising and rainfall increasing, we’re having to fall back from places or see them inundated.”

In looking around, I found a description of the fellowship Macfarlane is apparently working on through Emmanuel College, Cambridge:

Dr Robert Macfarlane is Fellow in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and University Lecturer in English Literatures Since 1945. His research interests include the relationships between landscape, ecology and literature; wildness; the novel; originality and plagiarism; and contemporary writing. His published books are Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), Original Copy (2007), and The Wild Places (forthcoming 2007). While an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Dr Robert Macfarlane will be working on After Sebald, a book on the life and work of the German writer W.G. Sebald, who died in 2001.

(CRASSH, even though it sounds suspiciously like a novel by J.G. Ballard, stands for Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.) And, according to, Macfarlane’s book is scheduled to be published by Hamish Hamilton on September 1, 2008.

In 2005, Macfarlane reviewed Sebald’s Campo Santo for the Times Online. Here is Macfarlane’s summary statement about Sebald’s writing:

Sebald’s great theme was mourning, his great mode melancholy and his great proposition was that the past of a culture can work on an individual in the same way as personal trauma. It is for this reason that, in his books, the dead have far greater presence and power than the living. His narrators move through the empty but past-haunted streets of familiar towns in Britain and Europe, following the traces of previous atrocities and sufferings. This may make his books sound oppressive. They are, but in a manner that is exceptionally moving and provoking. His writing has a turbulent power to disturb the sediments of thought and of history.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Macfarlane is really going to follow Sebald’s footsteps or veer off somewhere else in his next book. In the meantime, maybe we should all get a copy of The Wild Places and read away.

Robert Macfarlane WIld Places

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