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Posts from the ‘Sebald: Audio Books’ Category

Sebald Audio Books

I thought it might worthwhile to do a roundup of the W.G. Sebald audio books available as of today, August 2018. The first six of the titles below are available for individual purchase (as downloads) via Audible, either individually or through an Audible subscription. Click here to see Sebald’s titles on Audible, where sample sections may be heard. Three of these titles are also available for download purchase at, where the prices are somewhat cheaper. Sample sections can be heard here, too. All English-language titles are available for download at iTunes—along with several podcasts in English & German about Sebald).


English-language audio books.

Austerlitz audio

Austerlitz. Narrator: Richard Matthews. (Audible, & iTunes)

Emigrants Audio

The Emigrants. Narrator: Mel Foster. (Audible, & iTunes)

Adelwarth radio play

The Emigrants: Ambros Adelwarth (Edward Kemp radio play adaptation). (Audible & iTunes) This adaptation of the third section of The Emigrants was originally broadcast  on BBC Radio 3, starring John Wood, Henry Goodman, Eleanor Bron, Ed Bishop, Margaret Robertson, Andrew Sachs, Cosmo Solomon, Thomas Arnold, Jasmine Hyde and Maximilian Graber. Music by Gary Yershon. Directed by Edward Kemp. Warning! The Amazon page for this title is very misleading. Only the Audible Audiobook link genuinely leads you to the Kemp radio play. All of the other links (Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback & MP3) actually take you to versions of Sebald’s The Emigrants.

Natural History audio

On the Natural History of Destruction. Narrator: Simon Vance. (Audible, & iTunes)

Rings Thalia audio

Rings of Saturn. Dinau Mengestu, Rick Moody, Hari Kunzru, Denis O’Hare. Although it is announced at the start of this recording that actor Denis O’Hare will begin by reading an excerpt from Sebald’s book, this is not part of the audiobook, probably due to copyright reasons. So this audiobook consists of the three writers having a conversation about Sebald’s book and answering audience questions. This seems to be part of something called Thalia’s Book Club, which is geared to “avid readers ages 9-14” sponsored by New York’s Symphony Space. (Audible & iTunes) (You can also listen to this on SoundCloud.)


German-language audio books.

Austerlitz CD box1

Austerlitz. Narrator: Michael Krüger. This is an 9 CD audiobook of the original German text. Locations for purchasing a CD or download can be seen at the German website for Random House audio books. (iTunes) Even thought this runs more than 11 hours long, it is only $19.95 on iTunes and €22.95 at

Ausgewanderten audio

Die Ausgewanderten. Narrator: Paul Herwig. This is a 7 CD audio book of the original German text for The Emigrants. €20.00. Available at the Winter & Winter website.

Austerlitz CD

Austerlitz CD box1

A new nine-CD audio set of W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz has just been issued. The entire book is read by Michael Krüger, Sebald’s long-time friend and publisher. Plus, there is a section of Austerlitz read by Sebald in 2001 at the Unterberg Poetry Center of New York’s 92 Street Y, which can be seen on YouTube. Krüger gives an excellent reading of Sebald’s final novel, speaking in a gentle, slow intonation that sounds much like Sebald himself. From 1968 to 2013, Krüger worked at Carl Hanser Verlag, which was Sebald’s German publisher from 1998 until 2008.

In Europe, the CD set is available from multiple sources that have links on the Random House website. In the US, the set can be purchased from multiple sources through Amazon.

[This post was edited and updated after I received my copy of the CD set.]

Die Ausgewanderten Audiobook

Ausgewanderten Audiobook

I’m grateful to a Vertigo reader for letting me know that W.G. Sebald’s book Die Ausgewanderten (The Emigrants) is available as a German-language audio book on 7 CDs, published by Winter & Winter.  The reader is Paul Herwig.  It can be ordered directly from their website.  It was apparently released in late 2007.

Previously, the Max Ferber section of Die Ausgewanderten was available on  a pair of CDs issued by Eichborn Verlag in 2000, with Sebald himself reading.

Sebald’s Voice

Max Ferber CD Cover

Audio CD
There are a couple of ways to listen to W.G. Sebald speaking or reading.  Sebald personally recorded only one audio CD during his lifetime – Max Ferber (Frankfurt am Main: Eichborn Verlag, 2000). In this double compact disc set, Sebald reads in German from the “Max Ferber” section of Die Ausgewanderten.

Max Ferber CD Insides

KCRW Interview
Sebald can also be heard in a superb interview conducted on December 6, 2001 by Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW radio’s exceptional Bookworm program. In this thirty-minute interview, held only eight days before the automobile accident that killed Sebald, he talks at length about his debt to Thomas Bernhard, who he feels was practically the only German-language author to have not compromised his writing. To be morally compromised, Sebald says, ultimately leads to being aesthetically “insufficient.” Sebald describes Bernhard’s style as a “periscopic form of writing” in that he only tells you what he sees – nothing more, nothing less – a style Sebald uses to some extent in Austerlitz. It is a great pleasure to listen to Sebald’s voice and his immaculate, slightly obsolete English responses to Silverblatt’s intelligent observations and questions.  It’s worth trying to find Silverblatt’s interview with Sebald on Bookworm, if you can.

Sebald at 92nd Street Y

Reading at 92nd Street Y
On October 15, 2001, a few weeks before the radio interview mentioned above, Sebald gave a public reading at New York’s 92nd Street Y, which can be seen on YouTube.  The video is 49:23 long.  Sebald introduces his just-published book Austerlitz for about five minutes and then reads for twenty-five minutes from the section in which Jacques Austerlitz and Marie travel to the spa town of Marienbad.  That selection is not only a very important part of the book, it’s an interesting one to watch Sebald read since it contains segments in both French and German and so we hear Sebald actually reading in three different languages.

That night at the 92nd Street Y, Sebald shared the stage with Susan Sontag and so they are seen sharing the question-and-answer period.  Sontag is asked about her admiration for Nabokov and to elaborate on the consequences of the controversial essay she wrote for The New Yorker immediately after 9/11.

Sebald is shown answering two questions.  The first has to do with his use of photographs.  He explains that often the photographs precede the writing as was the case with the cover image for Austerlitz, which was “the point of departure” for the whole book.   Sebald says that photographs “hold up the flow of discourse” in the text, slowing down the reader’s path down the “negative gradient” of a book.  All books must come to an end, therefore the book is inherently an “apocalyptic structure.”  Photographs also serve as an affirmation to the reader that the story is based in truth.  But, at the same time, “pictures can be used as means of forgery” and Sebald confesses to have tampered with “not a few” in his books and he admits that he uses photographs to “develop complex games of hide and seek.”  Sebald notes that historic photographs “demand” that the reader address the lost lives they represent.

The second question posed to Sebald had to do with translation and why he uses a translator.  In the midst of his response, Sebald mentions that authors occasionally have to “intervene” with a translator and he hints – not for the first time – that he had to do so himself.  As to why he uses a translator, he offered two reasons.  He doesn’t completely trust his English and, because feels he is running out of time, he doesn’t want to spend his days translating himself.  He says he “sees the horizon.”  (Two months later he was dead.)

The final question was addressed to both Sontag and Sebald: What is their favorite book of the ones they’ve published.  Sontag: “the last two novels” Volcano Lover and In America.  Sebald’s answer is to say that “books written look like abandoned children” and so he cannot pick a favorite.  But there are certain rare sections of his books that are his favorites, namely those pages that came to him “without hesitation”.  Here, Sebald talks a bit about the “Il ritorno in patria” section of Vertigo, which flowed from pencil to pad.

[This post updated August 2013.]