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W.G. Sebald Gets the CEO Treatment

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from Intelligent Life

The Spring 2011 issue of The Economist‘s quarterly “lifestyle and culture” magazine Intelligent Life breaks down the “voice” of W.G. Sebald into bite-sized snacks as part of their series Notes on a Voice.  Not surprisingly, the six key questions mandated by the series seem more appropriate to a CEO or sports star than a writer, but perhaps there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek at play.  Let’s hope so.

Key Decision (“To invent his own hybrid form…”)

Strong Points (“…a style that tries to unbury the dead through syntax.”)

Golden Rule (“Obliqueness…”)

Favourite Trick (“Putting pictures into the text…”)

Role Models (Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Malory, Thomas Browne, Ovid.)

Typical Sentence (“And so they are ever returning to us, the dead.”)

In truth, the comments by journalist and novelist A.D. Miller are actually quite good, given their required brevity.  Sebald is the fifth author covered by the series, with prior writers being Graham Greene, Chaucer, V.S. Naipaul, and Philip Pullman.  I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised that a magazine originating in the world of economics proposes that writing is a man’s profession.

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