Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald, Part 1

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One of the books I am currently reading is Austerlitz, the final novel by German author W.G. Sebald who died in a car accident in 2001. Susan Sontag, for what it’s worth, called him a “contemporary master of the literature of lament and mental restlessness.” I suppose I concur, although it’s difficult to say what, exactly, makes the experience of reading this book so wonderful. The prose is clear but remains atmospheric, like a portion of a Bela Tarr film or a T.S. Eliot poem come to life. It’s surely not lament like the work of Arvo Part, for instance, nor, for that matter, a murky and merciless masterpiece like the 1964 novel Second Skin by another favorite of mine, the American writer John Hawkes. Sebald has an interesting technique of nesting narration, so that the narrator of the novel is relating the narration of his acquaintance Austerlitz who, in turn, is relating the narration of a third party. It is not nearly as unwieldly as it sounds, but it has the curious effect of softly muffling the goings on and quite successfully blurring the line between present and past.  It’s a nice feeling

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