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Posts from the ‘A Place in the Country (Logis in einem Landhaus)’ Category

Sebald Reads his Essay on Gottfried Keller


Another audio recording of W.G. Sebald has surfaced on the Internet. Over at, there is a recording of Sebald reading nearly all of his essay “Her kommt der Tod die Zeit geht hin: Anmerkungen zu Gottfried Keller” from Logis in einem Landhaus (translated as “Death Draws Nigh, Time Marches On: Some Remarks on Gottfried Keller” in the English edition). Sebald was participating in one of Literarisches Colloquium Berlin’s Studio LCB project, along with several other specialists in German-language literature, but Sebald’s is the only recording from the November 25, 1997 session currently available. (Apparently the others have yet to give permission.) After a brief introduction to Logis, which appeared in print the following year, Sebald begins reading about eight pages into the essay, beginning with page 104 (page 102 in A Place in the Country). The recording then fades out 50:44 later as he reads the penultimate page of the essay.

A Place in [this] Country


We had to wait fifteen years for an English translation of W.G. Sebald’s terribly important 1998 book Logis in einem Landhaus, but last year British publisher Hamish Hamilton gave us Jo Catling’s excellent translation under the title of A Place in the Country. We American readers have had to wait another nine months for an edition of our own from Random House, which is, like Hamish Hamilton, a division of the enormous Penguin Group. The content of the American edition hasn’t changed significantly; the footnotes are tracked differently, a typo has been corrected, and Random House, having some spare pages at the end, added very brief sections called “About the Author,” “About the Translator,” and “About the Type.” So it would hardly seem like it was worth the wait, except that Random House has actually made a more handsome book on several counts. Read more

Sebald’s Tripp

Sebald Place in the Country  Tripp

A Place in the Country feels more intimately autobiographical than any other book by Sebald.  As I have suggested in my previous posts on Sebald’s essays on Johann Peter Hebel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, Gottfried Keller, and Robert Walser, Sebald disclosed much about himself in the process of writing about others.  He lets us see the nature of his own curiosities and passions and prejudices.  We see him developing a theory of the history of Europe for the two centuries following the French Revolution and the empire of Napoleon.  And in disclosing his own pursuits as a consumer and producer of literature, Sebald constructs an ethic of writing that will likely be a very important part of his legacy. Read more

Sebald’s Keller

Sebald Place in the Country Keller Portraits

“In no other literary work of the nineteenth century can the developments which have determined our lives even down to the present day be traced as clearly as in that of Gottfried Keller.”   Read more

Sebald’s Walser

The fifth essay in A Place in the Country, Jo Catling’s new translation of W.G. Sebald’s Logis in einem Landhaus, is devoted to a “singular, enigmatic figure,” German-speaking Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956).  Not long into the essay, Sebald declares “one cannot really speak of a story or of a biography at all, but rather, or so it seems to me, of a legend.”  “Le Promeneur Solitaire: A Remembrance of Robert Walser” is quintessential Sebald – and it’s also the best essay in the book, in my opinion. Read more

Sebald’s Mörike


Reading the third essay in W.G. Sebald’s A Place in the Country, “Why I grieve I do not know: A memento of Mörike,” one gets the distinct sense that Sebald is struggling to say something kind about Eduard Mörike (1804-1875), a Lutheran minister and writer who scarcely traveled and whose writing often dissolved into “melodrama” and “something precariously close to a better class of sensationalist romance.”  Read more

Sebald’s Rousseau


Like other places of personal importance for him, W.G. Sebald first saw the Île Saint-Pierre from above, during a hike in 1965.  But it wasn’t until 1996 that he finally visited the small island in the middle of Lac de Bienne, where Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) found refuge for several weeks in 1765.  Read more

Sebald’s Hebel

SONY DSCWe have had to wait fifteen years for a publisher to decide to do an English translation of W.G. Sebald’s important book Logis in einem Landhaus, but A Place in the Country (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2013), translated by Jo Catling is finally out – in England, at least (the American edition is a year away).  Read more

Vertiginous Links for April 2013

Place in the Country British

Sebald was always asking us to reflect on how we access the past, how we rescue the dead, and how the writer performs that real, but necessarily fictional, reclamation. – James Wood

The Guardian has published an except from the much awaited publication of A Place in the Country, Jo Catling’s English translation of W.G. Sebald’s Logis in einem Landhaus (1998), an important collection of essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp. (The Guardian‘s excerpt is drawn from the section on Rousseau.)  Here’s an excerpt from their excerpt.

The room I took at the hotel looked out on the south side of the building, directly adjacent to the two rooms which Jean-Jacques Rousseau occupied when, in September 1765, exactly 200 years before my first sight of the island from the top of the Schattenrain, he found refuge here, at least until the Berne Petit Conseil drove him out from even this last outpost of his native land…At any rate, in the few days I spent on the island – during which time I passed not a few hours sitting by the window in the Rousseau room – among the tourists who come over to the island on a day trip for a stroll or a bite to eat, only two strayed into this room with its sparse furnishings – a settee, a bed, a table and a chair – and even those two, evidently disappointed at how little there was to see, soon left again. Not one of them bent down to look at the glass display case to try to decipher Rousseau’s handwriting, nor noticed the way that the bleached deal floorboards, almost two feet wide, are so worn down in the middle of the room as to form a shallow depression, nor that in places the knots in the wood protrude by almost an inch. No one ran a hand over the stone basin worn smooth by age in the antechamber, or noticed the smell of soot which still lingers in the fireplace, nor paused to look out of the window with its view across the orchard and a meadow to the island’s southern shore.

In conjunction with this excerpt, the Guardian also ran an article in which James Wood, Iain Sinclair, Robert Macfarlane and Will Self “reflect on what his work means to them.” The comments posted by Guardian readers make for very interesting reading, as well. A Place in the Country, is scheduled for release May 2 of this year and is available for pre-order from various book sites in England.   It will also be available for Kindle then.

Vertiginous Links for the New Year

Five Dials #26 is focused on German writing, with a number of new short stories by young German writers, plus three essays on W.G. Sebald: Uwe Schutte’s “Teaching by Example,” Amanda Hopkinson’s “A History of Memory or a Memory of History?,” and Anthea Bell’s “A Translator’s View.”  These essays are three of the five originally commissioned and aired by BBC radio one year ago.  (The two essays not reprinted here are those of Christopher Bigsby and Georges Szirtes.)

Helen Finch has added her thoughts to the discussion about the recent BBC radio dramatization of Austerlitz in a blog post wonderfully called “Sebald was more interesting than the husband: Austerlitz and l’effet du réel.”   Finch makes the case that we should be judging the radio drama on whether or not it contains “the emotional truth” of the original book.

If Michael Butt tried to present the emotional truth of Austerlitz, as he felt it, in his radio drama, who is to say that his classic BBC drama version, complete with slamming doors and tearjerking music, does not represent that important affective aspect of Sebald’s work which might otherwise be lost behind his complex irony and academic erudition? Or is it the case that if we allow ourselves to be bewitched by Sebald’s artistry into thinking that his work is just a reproduction of the real, nothing more and nothing less, we have consigned ourselves to the realm of kitsch that is the death of art?

Over at The White Review is a nice piece by Will Stone called “Oradour-sur-Glane: Reflections on the Culture of Memorial in Europe” that speaks to some of Sebald’s preoccupations in Austerlitz with Holocaust sites, architecture, and memorials.

Entering Oradour and obeying bold signs to the memorial ruins, I was surprised to find myself in a vast car park, a limitless expanse of tarmac, more suited one would think to a sports complex or shopping mall. There on the sleek asphalt of the car park I observed luxury coaches with their tinted glass and climate controlled interiors spill their chattering cargoes, just as they will now in the newly constructed ‘reception area’ at Auschwitz I in Poland. Cars of suntanned visitors parked obediently between the freshly painted lines, disembarked and moved off all in the same direction, as if drawn by some unspecified magnetic source towards the giant modern bunker of a building that sat in a kind of man-made hollow. I realised as I followed them down the smart new concrete steps to the lower level that this was a relatively new visitors centre, inaugurated in 1999 by President Chirac, a largely superfluous building, the new scourge of every memorial site in Europe, whether merely ruins or formal cemetery. For today it is considered not quite enough to have solely the memorial itself before which to contemplate man’s destructive capability, the intricacies of murderous folly and the resulting nerve straining conclusion. Again and again some shadowy authority slips in between the individual and their private purpose and imposes an artificial construction in their path, which they have to wade through, straddle or circumnavigate before they can get back to the path they thought they were on.

Did Teju Cole deliberately write twelve essays in twenty twelve?  I wouldn’t put it past him.  Here are links to each and every one.

I’m sure of nothing, and writing essays is one of the ways I sort through my doubts.

Place in the Country

And finally, among the books we can look forward to in 2013 is Jo Catling’s translation of Sebald’s important book A Place in the Country (originally Logis in einem Landhaus, by WG Sebald.  According to The Guardian, the book is due to be released in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin May 2, but Amazon doesn’t have the US edition coming out from Random House until January 2014.  It looks as if Random House is going to use the same cover as the German edition, which is a beautiful watercolor by the Swiss writer Gottfried Keller, who is the subject of one of the biographic essays in this.  The only place I can currently find an image of a possible Hamish Hamilton cover is over at the New Books in German website, which shows something entirely different for the UK edition.

Happy 2013!