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Since W.G. Sebald’s sudden death in 2001, the cult of the Britain-based German writer has spread fast. Known for his exquisite prose works that, in their combination of the real with the fictional, push at the limits of what novels can be, he is considered one of the foremost German writers of his generation. He was also a poet.

Across the Land and the Water brings together a selection of the poems he never published in book form, if at all. Translated by Iain Galbraith, the volume sketches out a life on the move. Stretching over 37 years, the volume includes poems that Mr Galbraith found jotted down in Sebald’s archives on scraps of paper, others written on menus, theatre programmes or headed paper from hotels. They emerge on trains or at the “unmanned/station in Wolfenbüttel”, Sebald covertly observing fellow commuters as he evokes the differing landscapes shuttling past.

Unlike his epic, vertiginous prose, these poems are often condensed and sparse. And yet they contain many of the themes that would obsess Sebald throughout his writing life. The poet spent his later years in Britain, working at the Universities of Manchester and East Anglia. Preoccupied with memory, desire and the ghostliness of objects, Sebald can evoke in one poem the faded glamour of “a forgotten era/of fountains and chandeliers” or a “turn-of-the-century/frock-coat and taffeta bow” while in another he will speak of an “ugly/tower block” or “moribund supermarkets”. This shift between differing eras could seem forced or artificial. And yet Sebald manages such movement with a lightness of touch. Indeed, the driving force behind his work is a search for the past, for the forgotten or overlooked: “I wish to inquire/Into the whereabouts of the dead.”

Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964-2001 by W.G. Sebald reviewed in The Economist.

"On the 10th anniversary of his death, a unique event celebrating the late, great writer W.G. Max Sebald; with Anthea Bell, Ian Bostridge, A.S. Byatt, Julius Drake (tbc), Ian Galbraith, Dan Gretton, Grant Gee, Rachel Lichtenstein, Christopher MacLehose, Katie Mitchell, Andrew Motion, Iain Sinclair, Will Stone, Bill Swainson, Marina Warner and Stephen Watts. Curated by Gareth Evans; staged in association with Katie Mitchell."

More on the event here...

Don't miss Chris Petit's superb, Sebaldian new film Content whilst it is still on 4OD. Mark Fisher reviewed Petit's "informal coda" to his 1979 film Radio On in Sight & Sound recently, and wrote:


At one point in Chris Petit’s haunting new film Content, we drive through Felixstowe container port. It was an uncanny moment for me, since Felixstowe is only a couple of miles from where I live – what Petit filmed could have been shot from our car window. What made it all the more uncanny was the fact that Petit never mentions that he is in Felixstowe; the hangars and looming cranes are so generic that I began to wonder if this might not be a doppelgänger container port somewhere else in the world. All of this somehow underlined the way Petit’s text describes these “blind buildings” while his camera tracks along them: “non-places”, “prosaic sheds”, “the first buildings of a new age” which render “architecture redundant”.

Content could be classified as an essay film, but it’s less essayistic than aphoristic. This isn’t to say that it’s disconnected or incoherent: Petit himself has called Content a “21st-century road movie, ambient”, and its reflections on ageing and parenthood, terrorism and new media are woven into a consistency that’s non-linear, but certainly not fragmentary (more...)

The centrality of melancholy to Sebald's work is probably the equivalent of Bernhard's cynicism; manifestations, that is, of contingent facts of life: the peace of the East Anglian landscapes, for example, compared to the venal denial of Vienna. Writers become who they are for many reasons, some more obvious than others. Self's thesis is that distance from Germany and closeness to the Jewish community in Manchester guided Sebald's determination to bare witness to the Holocaust and thereby help to remove the taint on Germany. But more than that: to bare witness to the presence of destruction in the peace of the English present. He writes about the destruction of German cities by the Allies and the destruction of nature in the abattoir of industry. Self's lecture is particularly welcome for bringing the English taint to our attention (more...)

Excellent post over on This Space which ranges from Amis through to Bernhard and W.G. Sebald...

Vertigo on Sebald's "blurbing":


In the August 15, 2008 New York Times Book Review, Rachel Donadio wrote about the business of blurbing, that “tangled mass of friendships, rivalries, favors traded and debts repaid, not always in good faith.”  Recently, Fourth Estate, a HarperCollins (UK) imprint, published a book by Philip Hoare called Leviathan - with an approving quote by W.G. Sebald. Since Sebald died in 2001, I was instantly curious (more...)

The Summer 2008 edition of The Quarterly Conversation is up online -- and the site has a neat new look and feel (and RSS feed). Particularly noteworthy is the interview with Christophe Claro author of Madman Bovary (recently reviewed here on ReadySteadyBook).


As most of you will know, The Quarterly Conversation is the brainchild of Scott Esposito. Something I should've mentioned previously is Scott's excellent review of J.J. Long's W.G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity.

Via Vertigo: W.G. Sebald’s German publishing house Hanser is announcing that a new book of his poetry will be out September 10, 2008. Called Über das Land und das Wasser:Ausgewählte Gedichte 1964-2001, it’s a 120-page volume edited by Sven Meyer (more...)