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New Revelations about Sebald’s Austerlitz

Sebald Austerlitz-British

There is a fascinating and revealing article on the New Yorker‘s literature-oriented blog, Page-Turner, that sheds new light on Sebald’s research for his final work of prose fiction Austerlitz. In his essay “W. G. Sebald and the Emigrants: How a friendship with two elderly Jewish refugees inspired the German novelist,” writer André Aciman describes how casual conversations with another father, Martin Ostwald, whose son attended the same kindergarten as Aciman’s, led to the remarkable discovery that Ostwald’s parents had met Sebald and had corresponded with him numerous times. Aciman’s tale is wonderfully told and illustrated with great photographs provided by Ostwald.

If you haven’t read Aciman’s Out of Egypt: A Memoir (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1994), you really should.

Thanks to all the Vertigo readers who alerted me to this article.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi. I have been reading your blog for a while but, for reasons that escaped me, never dared to comment. I noticed that you have several entries about Javier Marías in your blog and in one of those mention his acqaintance with W.G. Sebald. Marías actually wrote a handful of articles about Sebald in which he gives some details about their relationship. I am not sure if these texts have been translated into English. In Spanish they were originally published in some newspaper but have also been published as part of a book titled “Aquella mitad de mi tiempo”. In one of those articles Marías says that he, as the [imaginary] king of Redonda, has given nobiliary titles to some of his friends and acquaintances. So, Pierre Bourdieu is the Duke of Desarraigo, Arturo Pérez-Reverte is the Duke of Corso, and the late W.G. Sebald was the Duke of Vertigo.
    You have a very nice and inspiring blog.
    -Iván Ortega-López

    August 29, 2016
  2. Iván – Thanks for your comment! I mentioned the in my 2010 review of “Fever and Spear,” the first volume of Marias’ trilogy “Your Face Tomorrow,” where I wrote: “Javier Marias and W.G. Sebald knew and admired each other, with Sebald purportedly referring to Marias as a “twin writer.” Sebald included a photograph of Marias’ eyes in his book of poems and photographs Unrecounted. Marias dubbed Sebald the Duke of Vertigo in the imaginary Kingdom of Redonda that he administers.” https://sebald.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/the-fatal-word/. I’ll have to check out “Aquella mitad de mi tiempo.”

    August 30, 2016
    • Hello again. I just read your review of “Your Face Tomorrow” and remembered that I had previously skipped that one because I wanted to read the three volumes of the novel before reading any criticism about it. I am glad that you are interested in “Aquella mitad de mi tiempo”. The book features several photographs, including one of the Island of Redonda. I also just read your review of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s “War and War” and found something really curious. I read that novel in the Spanish edition and it also features only one photograph, but not the one depicting the plaque. The photograph of the Spanish edition shows the installation that Korin wants to see at Schaffhausen.

      August 31, 2016
  3. Ivan, Thanks for the information about the different photograph in the Spanish edition of War and War. In digging around, I found out that Kraznahorkai talks about why the Spanish edition is different in this interview: http://www.musicandliterature.org/features/2013/12/11/a-conversation-with-lszl-krasznahorkai. Maybe you have already found this website: https://guerreetguerre.wordpress.com/.
    -Terry

    August 31, 2016

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