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Sebald’s Selected Poems

Carl Hanser Verlag has just come out with a beautiful edition of selected poems by W.G. Sebald, Über das Land und das Wasser (Over the Land and the Water).  It contains more than sixty poems written by Sebald between 1964 and 2001, selected by Sven Meyer, who also provides the book with an afterword.  Nearly half of the poems are previously unpublished. The volume itself is nicely produced, with a wonderful dust jacket  photograph of Sebald by Isolde Ohlbaum.  The boards are covered in a handsome textured white paper with tiny flecks of color.  The spine has a wine-colored leather label.  All for the reasonable price of 14,90 Euros (about $20 today).  There is no indication how large the first printing was.

I have had mixed feelings about Sebald’s poetry so far (I think Unrecounted is especially problematic).  Much of the poetry that has appeared in English so far lacks the complex narratorial voice that is the essence of his prose works.  But the publication of Über das Land und das Wasser helps bridge the gap between his hyper-short poems and his long masterpiece After Nature.  I hope there is an English translation in the works.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wonderful. Thanks for the news.

    October 14, 2008
  2. Thank you for pointing out this edition; before reading your entry, I had no idea it existed (shame on me). So what did I do today? – Yes, you’re right: I bought the book and read all the poems almost in one sitting. What struck me most about the collection is how much, technically, the long poems and the prose texts have in common, and again I was confirmed in my belief that both types of writing should actually be called prose poems or poetic fictions. I have to admit I was even tempted to re-arrange a piece like Erinnertes Triptychon einer Reise aus Brüssel on the page as a continuous narrative, and I’ve always loved Sebald’s four long narratives as much for their poetic qualities as for anything else.

    Some favourites: the one called Erinnertes Triptychon… and many more for motifs such as travelling and cities, the ones called Schön ist das Leben and Albumvers, both for being so funny and so quaint; Das vorvergangene Jahr, for being so disturbing (with its ominous allusion to a deadly accident); the ones about Beethoven and Schumann and – oh I could go on and on…

    October 18, 2008
  3. It has been reported in Booktrade (April 17, 2009) that Hamish Hamilton will publish an English translation of Sebald’s selected poems in autumn 2010 (the date could change). We should probably expect an American edition–from New Directions perhaps?–around the same time.

    April 28, 2009
  4. Oops, I forgot the link.

    The Booktrade announcement is about halfway down the following web page:

    http://www.booktrade.info/index.php/showarticle/20768

    April 28, 2009

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