BBC’s “A German Genius in Britain”
BBC producer Jessica Treen kindly let me listen to a preview of the upcoming BBC Radio 4 broadcast of “A German Genius in Britain.” It will be broadcast on May 29 at 11:30 (London time). After that, it will be available for one week on the BBC iPlayer. It should then be available for a full year on the BBC 4 website. The piece is thoroughly entertaining and manages to pack quite a lot about Sebald’s books and themes into a short 30-minute program. Sebald himself is heard, reading German and talking in English with KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt.
Iain Sinclair, who could make a claim to being the David Attenborough of the literary scene, plays host, taking on the role of “psychic detective” and traveling to several Sebald-laden locations. He begins in Manchester, where he meets up with writer and novelist Nicholas Royle to briefly discuss Sebald’s experience there and how he used the city in The Emigrants. Then Sinclair is off to Norwich to meet Sebald’s colleague Jo Catling, who talks, among other things, about Sebald’s transition from academic to writer and the book On the Natural History of Destruction. The two visit Sebald’s grave near his home in Poringland. This is followed by a discussion with Marina Warner, mostly about Austerlitz, which becomes the primary topic for the entire second half of the broadcast. Sinclair returns to London to join poet Stephen Watts for visits to Tower Hamlets Cemetery and the Ashkenazi section of the Alderney Road Cemetery, both of which play a key role in Austerlitz. The broadcast ends with Watts reading the final two stanzas of his poem “For My Friend Max Sebald,” which may be read in its entirety here.