Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – or to go out to work again. Well, I did warn you that 7 books would not be enough, and said it would probably be more like 7x7. However, as I also mentioned, I don’t have access to my full library at the moment, so this has been largely a memory exercise. Maybe I’ll just keep going until I run out of steam. Or how’s about I do half now, half later, when my library is restored to me? Let’s play it by ear.
‘Is literary greatness still possible? … One of the few answers available to English-language readers is the work of W. G. Sebald.’ Susan Sontag, 2000. (Full articles linked below.)
That quotation is from a review of Vertigo, but each of Sebald’s four major prose fictions, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz are essential. For me, it was a toss up between the last two, but really it could have been either. Sontag cites the influence, among others, of Thomas Bernhard, but I would add Beckett (both of whom we will get to presently). The psycho-geographic peregrinations of the narrator of Rings around Suffolk remind me of the musings of a Beckett tramp, as do the faded aristocrats he comes across, living in one room of a mansion they can no longer afford to maintain.
Incidentally, I see Sebald as a bridge between the German World War Two experience, and the flowering of Krautrock in the late p’60s/early ’70s. Sebald anatomises the guilt, groups like Can, Kraftwerk and Neu celebrate the liberation.
I sometimes wonder why I have read so much, when I have forgotten so much. I have not forgotten Sebald, but I can’t wait to read his books again.