I am still plugging away at the recently published book of essays Undiscover’d Country: W.G. Sebald and the Poetics of Travel. The third triogy of essays deal with Sebald’s relation to other writers: Bruce Chatwin, Adalbert Stifter, and Joseph Conrad.
Brad Prager’s Convergence Insufficiency: On Seeing Passages between W.G. Sebald and the “Travel Writer” Bruce Chatwin deals with two complex writers that have been relegated in the popular imagination to the genre of travel writing.
Neil Christian Pages’ essay Tripping: On Sebald’s “Stifter” (which has, alas, nothing to do with travel) focuses on Sebald’s two early critical essays on the Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter, making the case that these two essays helped move Sebald from the genre of literary criticism to a more complex and personal kind of writing. These essays form “the bases for another kind of storytelling that becomes operative elsewhere in Sebald’s work.” He sees Sebald becoming a more creative reader for whom reading (and writing) is often a form of restitution, giving new life to a series of overlooked authors with whom Sebald connects deeply. “Sebald unpacks Stifter’s formidable body of work as a series of perspectival layers that remind us of the dizzying possibilities of perceiving – at once – different levels of significance.”
My favorite of this trilogy was Margaret Bruzelius’ Adventure, Imprisonment, and Melancholy: Heart of Darkness and Die Ringe des Saturn. By coincidence, I had just experienced the mysterious wonder that is Heart of Darkness for the umpteenth time, listening to an audio version on board a recent flight. “Both Conrad and Sebald create tales permeated by an acute consciousness of storytelling as a process that leads nowhere….the return [to home] leaves the hero retelling a history whose purport is unclear.” Bruzelius ponders critics traditional discomfort with the influence of the romantic adventure on the “serious” novel.
Other posts relating to this volumes of essays can be found here.