Thursday, April 19, 2012


W.G. Sebald

For how hard it is

to understand the landscape

as you pass in a train

from here to there

and mutely it

watches you vanish.

Crossing the Water

In early November 1980

walking across

the Bridge of Peace I almost

went out of my mind

At the Edge

of its vision

the dog still sees

everything as it was

in the beginning

October Heat Wave

From the flyover
that leads down
to the Holland
Tunnel I saw
the red disk
of the sun
rising over the
promised city.

By the early
afternoon the
reached eighty-
five & a steel
blue haze
hung about the
shimmering towers

whilst at the White
House Conference
on Climate the
President listened
to experts talking
about converting
green algae into
clean fuel & I lay

in my darkened
hotel room near
Gramercy Park
dreaming through
the roar of Manhattan
of a great river
rushing into
a cataract.

In the evening
at a reception
I stood by an open
French window
& pitied the
crippled tree
that grew in a
tub in the yard.

Practically defo-
liated it was
of an uncertain
species, its trunk
& its branches
wound round with
strings of tiny
electric bulbs.

A young woman
came up to me
& said that al-
though on vacation
she had spent
all day at
the office
which unlike

her apartment was
air-conditioned &
as cold as the
morgue. There,
she said, I am
happy like an
opened up oyster
on a bed of ice.


W.G. Sebald
translated by Iain Galbraith
Across the Land and the Water
(Random House, 2011)

'I don't think one can write from a compromised moral position," remarked the German writer WG Sebald, who has died, aged 57, in a car crash in East Anglia. That scruple put him at odds with much of contemporary writing.

Scorning the Holocaust "industry", and what he referred to as an official culture of mourning and remembering, Sebald disliked feel-good sentimental portrayals of terrible events - such as Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark. He claimed no false intimacy with the dead.

He wanted to find a literary form responsive to the waves and echoes of human tragedy which spread out, across generations and nations, yet which began in his childhood. In the ruined cities and towns of post-war Germany the causes of the destruction of an entire society were never discussed. His father, who came home a stranger to his three-year-old son in 1947, after being released from a POW camp in France, said nothing about the war. Silence and forgetting were conditions of his early life.

read more

(the guardian. u.k.)

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