Ω Three years ago, Five Dials, the online magazine from Hamish Hamilton published some of the notes that David Lambert and Robert McGill took down as they attended one of W.G. Sebald’s last classes on writing. Their piece, then called “The Collected ‘Maxims’,” has reappeared unchanged as “Max Sebald’s Writing Tips.” It’s too bad that Five Dials doesn’t get mentioned, and there is no link to that issue (number 5), which, as I noted at that time, was a “goldmine” of articles dedicated to Sebald. So here’s a reminder of what’s in Five Dials 5:
The new issue of Five Dials is very much an issue devoted to W.G. Sebald. Nearly half of the 32 pages are related to him in one way or another. The issue opens with a “Letter from the Editor” (Craig Taylor) entitled “On Translation and Sebald.” This is followed by “A Little Trick of the Mind,” in which four translators ( including Sebald’s primary English translator Anthea Bell) discuss “the world’s second oldest profession.” (Bell’s father edited The Times crossword puzzle, we learn.) She talks about translating the Asterix books and Sebald, although most of what she says here about Sebald she has said elsewhere.
Joe Dunthorne, a writer and, perhaps more importantly, a striker for the England Writers’ Football Team, writes about reading Austerlitz and what it meant to him as he moved to London.
Simon Prosser (publishing director for Hamish Hamilton) provides An A to Z of W.G. Sebald, an alphabetical soup of reminiscences grouped under subheadings such as Bavaria, Climate, Kant, Lac de Bienne (the one place Sebald felt truly at home), Smoking, and Zembla.
And lastly there is a short piece by the late author Roger Deakin.
Ω Not too long ago I wrote about Laird Hunt’s great 2012 book Kind One. Now there is an interview with him by Roxanne Gay over at Bookforum. Laird gives a very interesting and articulate discussion on a wide range of topics, including the issue of literary genre.
The fact that all the ghosts and witches and detectives and space ships had to operate in the relative shadows for many years brought its own rewards and much brilliant work, some of which is being retroactively anointed (think of the canonizing of Philip K. Dick), but it has also presented us with the strange and distorting notion that there is anything inherently unusual about the inclusion of such elements in writing worthy of being celebrated far and wide.
My first and lasting literary light-ups were European, French in particular, and what we think of as being related to genre is everywhere in writings published by France’s biggest houses. Whether we’re talking de Maupassant or Robbe-Grillet, Jean Echenoz or Marie Ndiaye, S & M, the supernatural and the gangster are all there, unapologized for, and have been for years.
Ω And don’t overlook László Krasznahorkai’s piece in the New York Times, “Someone’s Knocking at My Door.” It’s just damned wicked writing.
“Yes, it’s the weak who invite violence who are the problem.”