Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Uwe Schütte’

New Book: “Über W.G. Sebald”

schutte-uberDe Gruyter has just issued a new book edited by Uwe Schütte titled Über W.G. Sebald: Beiträge zu einem anderen Bild des Autors. According to an announcement  by the German Department at Aston University where Schütte teaches:

The aim of the book is to provide a counterweight to the dominant strands in Sebald criticism by excluding over-researched topics like the novel Austerlitz and themes such as melancholia, Holocaust and memory.

Instead, the volume explores unpublished texts (such as Sebald’s early novel and his film script on the life and death of Immanuel Kant), revisits the critical discussions initiated by his polemical writings on Alfred Döblin and Alfred Andersch, and explores the Luftkrieg und Literatur debate. Another focus of the volume is philological groundwork, as it were, to establish the biographical and factual background to Sebald’s writings on his native region, the Allgäu, and to his prose volume Schwindel. Gefühle.

In addition to addressing often overlooked or ignored aspects of his writings, the specific approach of the volume was to include contributions from post-docs, Auslandsgermanisten and private scholars in an attempt to break free from the often tautological critical debates taking place within German academia.

The book’s authors include Sven Meyer, Melissa Etzler, Michael Hutchins, Uwe Schütte, Scott Bartsch, Peter Schmucker, Kay Wolfinger, Christoph Steker, Christian Hein, Ulrike Dronske, Markus Joch, Jakob Hayner, Axel Englund, Adrian Nathan West, Florian Radvan, and Ralf Jeutter. Further information on the book can be found at the De Gruyter website. The entire Table of Contents can be viewed online.

Sebald Program in Göttingen, Dec 14, 2015

The Literarisches Zentrum in Göttingen, Germany will host a program led by two Sebald experts – Sven Meyer und Uwe Schütte – on Monday, December 14, 2015. The program is called “W.G. Sebald: Zwischen Kanon und Außenseitertum” (Between Canon and Outsider). Tickets are required and may be purchased online. Here is the description of the program from the website:

Acht zahlende Gäste waren anwesend, so will es zumindest die Legende, als W.G. Sebald 2001 im Literarischen Zentrum aus Austerlitz las. Als er am 14. Dezember desselben Jahres bei einem Autounfall ums Leben kam, war der Autor gerade zu Weltruhm gelangt. Selten ist eine so rasch vollzogene Kanonisierung zu beobachten gewesen wie die Sebalds in den 2000ern. Aber zugleich galt der gebürtige Allgäuer und Literaturprofessor im englischen Norwich immer als Außenseiter des deutschen Literaturbetriebs.

An seinem Todestag laden wir zu einem Rundgang durch sein Werk ein, um dem insularen Phänomen Sebald auf die Spur zu kommen, geleitet von zwei Kennern: Uwe Schütte, Autor mehrere Bücher zu Sebald, hat seinerzeit bei ihm promoviert und Sven Meyer ist der Herausgeber zweier Bände – u. a. der Lyrik – aus dem Nachlass.

Literaturhaus Stuttgart to Celebrate Sebald’s 70th

Sebald at Literaturhaus Stuttgart

Sebald at Literaturhaus Stuttgart © Heiner Wittmann

The 70th anniversary of the birth of W.G. Sebald is coming up on May 18, 2014. To mark this date, the Literaturhaus in Stuttgart has planned an event for Tuesday May 20, featuring Sebald scholar Uwe Schütte. Schütte is scheduled to give a talk called “Das Land das man nur barfuß betreten darf: W.G. Sebalds Lyrik” (“the land one may only enter barefoot”), based on his recent study Figurationen. He will talk about the development of Sebald’s poetry from his first attempts at writing literary texts to the final micro-poems that were evolved just before his premature death. Florian Höllerer, who was the director of the Literaturhaus from its inception until the end of 2013, will serve as moderator for the evening. Tickets may be acquired at the website.

Sebald and the Literaturhaus had a very special connection. He was invited to speak at its opening ceremonies on November 17, 2001. This important speech – “Ein Versuch der Restitution” – turned out to be Sebald’s last public appearance before his death on December 14, 2001. “An Attempt at Restitution,” the English version, first appeared in The New Yorker (December 20-27, 2004) and then was reprinted in the posthumous anthology Campo Santo. In 2008, Verlag Ulrich Keicher in Warmbronn, Germany issued a booklet containing Sebald’s speech called Zerstreute Reminiszenzen in a small edition of 800 copies, a few of which might still be available from Literaturhaus. This publication included illustrations of many of the things mentioned in the speech, from the Quelle mail-order catalog that his father showed him for Christmas 1949 to newspaper clippings and photographs drawn from the Sebald archive in Marbach.  A few sections of Sebald’s own typescript of the speech are also reproduced.



“The ‘Other’ Sebald” – A Conversation in Berlin

Brecht HausBertold Brecht Haus, Charlottenberg, Berlin-Mitte

Vertigo readers in Germany should be interested in an event happening in Berlin on March 6, 2014. Uwe Schütte and Sven Meyer will have a public conversation on “The ‘Other’ Sebald,” dealing with Sebald’s poetry and critical writings. The event marks the launch of Schütte’s newly published study on Sebald’s poetry Figurationen: Zum lyrischen Werk von W. G. Sebald (Edition Isele).

Schütte is a scholar of German  literature who has published widely on Sebald. Sven Meyer is editor of two posthumous collections of critical essays and poetry by Sebald: Campo Santo and Über das Land und das Wasser. Ausgewählte Gedichte 1964-2001.

The event will take place in Berlin on 6 March 6, 2014, at 8:00 PM, at the Literaturforum im Brechthaus, the former residence of playwright Bertolt Brecht. For more details, checkout the program calendar at the Literaturforum.

Conversation with Uwe Schütte


Uwe Schütte is a Reader in German at Aston University, where he has taught since 1999. He has a PhD. from the University of East Anglia, where he studied under W.G. Sebald. His new book about the poetry of W.G. Sebald has just been published by Edition Isele in Eggingen, Germany, at the very affordable price of 16 Euros.

Vertigo: Your new book Figurationen is a study of Sebald’s poetical writings. Why did you decide to write about this aspect of Sebald’s work?

Schütte: The book actually came about by chance. For a long while I meant to write an essay on Über das Land und das Wasser (2008), the collection of Sebald’s poetry edited by Sven Meyer, but I never really got round to doing it. Then the opportunity arose to present a paper on Sebald’s poetry at a conference in Cardiff, Wales. I actually couldn’t attend due to illness but nevertheless wrote the essay for inclusion in the conference proceedings volume.

Taking a closer look at the poems, which I had so far only considered to be appendixes to the prose texts, I discovered that they have considerable merits independent of the prose books. In connection with my research, I came across some articles by the Swedish scholar Axel Englund which contained incisive close readings of several poems that stimulated my interest further. Another factor were the often eye-opening explanatory notes provided by Iain Galbraith, the translator and editor of Across the Water and The Land (2011), the English version of the poetry collection.

That in turn led me to also look more closely at the micro poetry written around the time of Austerlitz, which appeared in the collections For Years Now (2001) and Unerzählt (2003), which was published in English as Unrecounted in 2004. I had previously disregarded these small texts as I felt that they seemed too casual in their brevity and also made an odd postscript to Sebald’s œuvre. However, a closer examination of the poems – again – revealed them to be far more meaningful and relevant than initially had assumed.

Having completed the two pieces, I realized that I only needed to add a chapter on Nach der Natur (1988), published in English as After Nature in 2002, to create a book that would cover all aspects of Sebald’s poetical œuvre. Edition Isele was very receptive to the idea of a study on the poetry, so a deal was quickly struck and the book appeared a mere six months after I had started work on the first article.

Vertigo: It’s my impression that Nach der Natur has received more critical attention than Sebald’s other books of poetry – especially the micro poems – in part because it is such an autobiographical book. So let’s talk more about the micro poems and the other late poetry. How do you see the micro poems fitting into Sebald’s oeuvre?  Are they autobiographical in any way?

Schütte: They are autobiographical only in the sense that they display Sebald’s pronounced idiosyncrasy. The micro poems in that sense fit very much into his work for the very reason that they counteract common expectations and public demands. Sebald never really wanted to comply with these. My personal guess is that after Austerlitz he sought to do something completely different. And he did. You have to bear in mind that the very last book published during his lifetime is not the big novel but the “below-the-radar” collaboration with Tess Jaray.

Vertigo: It’s curious that both of these books of micro poems are collaborations with artists. Unerzählt  was done with Sebald’s long-time friend Jan Peter Tripp and For Years Now was done with a British artist, Tess Jaray. Why do you think Sebald wanted to do these books as collaborations?

Schütte: The plan for the collaboration with Tripp actually harked back many years, the pair just never really got round getting it done. At least not during Sebald’s lifetime. Given the importance he placed on the combination of pictures and text it was only a logical step to enter into a collaborative (side) project of this sort. As it turned out then, both books were essentially the product of the respective artists with Sebald only supplying texts – although they are now of course perceived as original Sebald books featuring illustrations by someone else.

Vertigo: Did you interview Tripp or Jaray? If so, what was that like?

Schütte: Tripp (like Sebald) is a digitalophobe. He was terribly difficult to get hold of; I sent postcards that were returned with “addressee unknown” and rang him numerous times, leaving messages, but all to no avail. I got hold of him though after several weeks of trying and we talked on the phone for an hour or so. Jaray was easier. She is on email and responded quickly. I just had to catch the train from Birmingham to London one sunny Saturday in June 2013 to visit her in her new studio in Camden. She was terribly helpful, providing me with lots of highly relevant information on the book. She shared her correspondence with Sebald, too, and I quote from that frequently in the book. Also, she let me have a scan of the autograph of Sebald’s favorite poem that I wanted to have reproduced on the cover of the book. Unfortunately, my publisher decided against that, opting for a rather bland design.

Vertigo: Which poem is that?

Schütte: It’s the one about his beloved grandfather, who died when Sebald was a boy aged 11. This traumatic event, I argue, was the key factor for his melancholic disposition and his obsession with reaching out into the realm of the dead, being far more important than the guilt he felt for the crimes committed by the Nazis. In the German original, the poem just says the smell of the poet’s writing paper reminds him of the smell of woodchips in a coffin. In the English version, Sebald makes the crucial and revealing addition that the coffin he talks about is his granddad’s. To me, it appears as if he needed to write in the foreign language to be able to openly talk about the very origin of his life-long sadness.

The Smell

of my writing paper
puts me in mind
of the woodshavings
in my grandfather’s

[from For Years Now: Poems by W.G. Sebald/Images by Tess Jaray, Short Books, 2001]

Vertigo: What did you discover when you studied the Sebald Archive in Marbach?

Schütte: A truly vast number of unpublished poems, particularly from the nineties! Many of them were – uncharacteristically for Sebald – in a handwriting that was difficult to read. Fortunately, I met a young Sebald scholar from the US called Melissa Etzler who had already researched the vast majority of the poems and showed me her transcriptions, which was very helpful. These days, it is difficult for me to travel to the archive as it is located in a pretty remote and provincial part of South-West Germany – an irony that Sebald would, of course, have liked a lot. So when I finally managed to get to Marbach, the book was nearly completed. Realizing how much unpublished stuff there is, both in English and German, I contemplated abandoning my original book for a while and thought of starting a new one just on the late and unpublished poetry.

Vertigo: In 2011, you published W.G. Sebald : Einführung in Leben und Werk (W.G. Sebald: Introduction to his Life & Works) (Stuttgart: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht). What is the relationship between these two books on Sebald?

Schütte: This general introduction was very much the preparatory exercise for the important project that should finally see the light this year, I hope – a major study of Sebald’s critical writings called Interventionen. Literaturkritik als Widerspruch bei W.G. Sebald (Interventions. Criticism as Contradiction in the Works of W.G. Sebald). It will run to some 700 pages and comprehensively cover the entirety of his non-literary texts. When I wrote the introduction in 2010, I primarily saw it as a way to re-read all prose books and to acquaint myself with the (often pretty dismal) criticism on Sebald; also, I assumed that there would be some sort of commemoration going on around the tenth anniversary of his death in the German papers. Surprisingly, or not, that wasn’t the case. Sebald is truly adored by his readership but still little liked by cultural establishment in Germany. Quite the reverse of the all-encompassing adoration in the Anglophone world. Many important critics as well as highly-regarded writers (such Günter Grass) and a whole bunch of academics have not forgiven him for breaking the cozy consensus by his vitriolic attacks on celebrated figureheads of German post-war literature such as Alfred Andersch, Jurek Becker and others.

I am exploring these and other issues in Interventionen and, to return to your question, I perceive Figurationen very much as a companion volume to the big monograph on the critical writings – both books aim to shed light on neglected areas of Sebald’s œuvre. Don’t forget that he published his first poems in 1964 and his first academic monograph in 1969. Poetry and critical texts, which he then continued to write over the course of nearly four decades, are the background from which his prose texts developed during the comparatively short period he produced his celebrated prose books.

Vertigo: Can we expect more publications by you on Sebald once Interventionen has appeared?

Schütte: I am afraid so. Just as Sebald predicted when I first mentioned that I would like to do a PhD. with him in order to pursue an academic career, the situation of German studies in the UK has much deteriorated, constantly eating away at academic freedom and imposing misguided bureaucratic mechanisms to demonstrate the relevance and so-called “impact” of one’s research. I am under pressure to increasingly publish in English and have already started to work on a contribution to the “Writers and Their Work” series by Northcote Publishers, due to appear later this year or in early 2015. It is not a translation of my German general introduction but rather written from scratch with an English-speaking audience in mind. It will be my fourth book on Sebald in as many years – and I guess I should then declare a moratorium on Sebald research for the time being…