In the High Peaks

Monday, November 9, 2015

German Literature Month: Reading W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants

I so look forward to German Literature Month every November. Last month I was extremely lucky to be awarded a Vintage paperback edition of The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald, a book I've been wanting to get a hold of for a long time. Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life awarded the book, and I thank her for opening the competition to an international entrant.

I'm now deeply enmeshed in The Emigrants, and find that I'm so intrigued and interested in the person of the narrator. He is enigmatic, sympathetic toward his subjects, and very nearly omniscient, at least to my mind. This is a book that I want to read, set aside, and read again for the nuances, which are everpresent. I'm still making sense of it, and I'd be interested in reading literary criticism about the novel, though I'd be terrified as well, because I don't want critics to make the novel even more complicated than I have imagined, which is complex enough. I feel very close to the narrator as I'm reading--that's how well written The Emigrants is. I feel completely drawn into the narrator's sensibilities and they have become mine. I seem to find myself deeply understanding the dislocated worlds, families, and societies of mid-20th-century Europe. Perhaps this is because I've gravitated toward literature embodying this time and these themes since my teenage years. In any case, I want to read more works by W.G. Sebald, the emigrant himself, who emigrated to England from Germany. The other book of his that is tops on my list is Austerlitz. I do own it but haven't read it yet.

I fell way behind on the Christa Wolf Week (darn it!) hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat, who is co-host with Lizzy of German Literature Month. I couldn't keep up with the Wolf Week because I've been non-stop traveling between northern New York and Boston for the past month. I now own Wolf's Patterns of Childhood (in the UK its title is A Model Childhood), which is an autobiographical novel of Wolf's childhood and youth during World War II and afterwards in the eastern part of Germany. Perhaps I'll save it for next November, if I can wait until then.

Lucky for me, because I'm in the Boston area this week (yet unluckily far from home), I do have access to a library copy of Erich Remarque's A Time to Love and a Time to Die. This is the Literature and War read that Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat is hosting for the last week in November. I can borrow it from my alma mater indefinitely. There is no library copy available in upstate and northern New York.  

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