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A Place in the Country [Kindle Edition]

W.G. Sebald , Jo Catling
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.00
Kindle Price: $13.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A Place in the Country is W. G. Sebald’s meditation on the six artists and writers who shaped his creative mind—and the last of this great writer’s major works to be translated into English.
 
This beautiful hardcover edition, with a full-cloth case, includes more than 40 pieces of art and 6 full-color gatefolds, all originally selected and laid out by W. G. Sebald.

This extraordinary collection of interlinked essays about place, memory, and creativity captures the inner worlds of five authors and one painter. In his masterly and mysterious style—part critical essay, part memoir—Sebald weaves their lives and art with his own migrations and rise in the literary world.
 
Here are people gifted with talent and courage yet in some cases cursed by fragile and unstable natures, working in countries inhospitable or even hostile to them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is conjured on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion, hiding from his detractors on the island of St. Pierre, where two centuries later Sebald took rooms adjacent to his. Eighteenth-century author Johann Peter Hebel is remembered for his exquisite and delicate nature writing, expressing the eternal balance of both the outside world and human emotions. Writer Gottfried Keller, best known for his 1850 novel Green Henry, is praised for his prescient insights into a Germany where “the gap between self-interest and the common good was growing ever wider.”
 
Sebald compassionately re-creates the ordeals of Eduard Mörike, the nineteenth-century German poet beset by mood swings, depression, and fainting spells in an increasingly shallow society, and Robert Walser, the institutionalized author whose nearly indecipherable scrawls seemed an attempt to “duck down below the level of language and obliterate himself” (and whose physical appearance and year of death mirrored those of Sebald’s grandfather). Finally, Sebald spies a cognizance of death’s inevitability in painter Jan Peter Tripp’s lovingly exact reproductions of life.
 
Featuring the same kinds of suggestive and unexplained illustrations that appear in his masterworks Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, and translated by Sebald’s colleague Jo Catling, A Place in the Country is Sebald’s unforgettable self-portrait as seen through the experiences of others, a glimpse of his own ghosts alongside those of the men who influenced him. It is an essential addition to his stunning body of work.

Praise for A Place in the Country
 
“Measured, solemn, sardonic . . . hypnotic . . . [W. G. Sebald’s] books, which he made out of classics, remain classics for now.”—Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“In Sebald’s writing, everything is connected, everything webbed together by the unseen threads of history, or chance, or fate, or death. The scholarly craft of gathering scattered sources and weaving them into a coherent whole is transformed here into something beautiful and unsettling, elevated into an art of the uncanny—an art that was, in the end, Sebald’s strange and inscrutable gift.”Slate
 
“Magnificent . . . The multiple layers surrounding each essay are seamless to the point of imperceptibility.”—New York Daily News
 
“Sebald’s most tender and jovial book.”—The Nation

“Reading [A Place in the Country is] like going for a walk with a beautifully talented, deeply passionate novelist from Mars.”New York


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Few writers have traveled as quickly from obscurity to the sort of renown that yields an adjective as quickly as German writer W. G. Sebald (1944–2001), and now Sebaldian is as evocative as Kafkaesque. Sebald is that rare being: an inimitable stylist who creates extraordinary sentences that, like crystals, simultaneously refract and magnify meaning. This posthumous collection, a boon to Sebald admirers, is a series of tributes to writers and artists Sebald admired and felt affinity with. Though these pieces resemble literary criticism, they are a species of homage: reverential but without hyperbole. Except for Rousseau, few of Sebald’s subjects are well known, but readers will feel enlightened and will newly appreciate the depths of respect writers have for their peers, even if those peers lived two centuries ago. All of Sebald’s subjects had uneasy relations with their times and with themselves: “Exile, as Gottfried Keller describes it, is a form of purgatory located just ­outside the world.” One does not have to leave home to feel bereft, and Sebald was the great contemporary master of this liminal territory. --Michael Autrey

Review

“Measured, solemn, sardonic . . . hypnotic . . . [W. G. Sebald’s] books, which he made out of classics, remain classics for now.”—Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“In Sebald’s writing, everything is connected, everything webbed together by the unseen threads of history, or chance, or fate, or death. The scholarly craft of gathering scattered sources and weaving them into a coherent whole is transformed here into something beautiful and unsettling, elevated into an art of the uncanny—an art that was, in the end, Sebald’s strange and inscrutable gift.”Slate
 
“Magnificent . . . The multiple layers surrounding each essay are seamless to the point of imperceptibility.”—New York Daily News
 
“Sebald’s most tender and jovial book.”—The Nation

“Reading [A Place in the Country is] like going for a walk with a beautifully talented, deeply passionate novelist from Mars.”New York

“The publication in English of A Place in the Country brings us closer to Sebald’s oft elusive inner-evolution. . . . It is a pleasure to read again in 2014, so lucid and temperate a voice as the late author’s on ideas and elements of humanity so familiar—and thus so difficult to describe freshly—as dislocation, literary memory, and the unpaid dividends thereof.”—The Brooklyn Rail

A Place in the Country’s publication in English is something to celebrate.”—W. S. Merwin
 
“Out of exquisitely attuned feeling for the past, Sebald fashioned an entirely new form of literature. I’ve read his books countless times trying to understand how he did it. In the end, I can only say that he practiced a kind of magic born out of almost supernatural sensitivity. A Place in the Country extends the too-short time we were given in his company.”—Nicole Krauss
 
“Few writers have traveled as quickly from obscurity to the sort of renown that yields an adjective as quickly as German writer W. G. Sebald (1944–2001), and now Sebaldian is as evocative as Kafkaesque. Sebald is that rare being: an inimitable stylist who creates extraordinary sentences that, like crystals, simultaneously refract and magnify meaning. This posthumous collection, a boon to Sebald admirers, is a series of tributes to writers and artists Sebald admires and feels affinity with. . . . All of Sebald’s subjects had uneasy relations with their times and with themselves: ‘Exile, as [Gottfried] Keller describes it, is a form of purgatory located just outside the world.’ One does not have to leave home to feel bereft, and Sebald is the great contemporary master of this liminal territory.”Booklist

“A beautiful book.”—The Spectator
 
“An intimate anatomy of the pathos, absurdity and perverse splendour of trying to find patterns in the chaos of the world.”—The Telegraph
 
“A fascinating volume that confirms Sebald as one of Europe’s most mysterious and best-loved literary imaginations.”—Evening Standard
 
“This illuminating collection shows a writer at his most inquisitive, gazing deeply under the surface of things and grappling with the difficulties of personal and collective memory.”—Financial Times
 
“[A Place in the Country is] illuminating for its insight into the author’s work and its obsessions, themes, and observations on home and exile. . . . Contemplating the work of others, Sebald writes from a writer’s rather than a reader’s perspective, of one who shares the affliction. . . . This last word from the novelist provides a nice footnote on his own writing.”Kirkus Reviews

“Sebald’s subtle dissection . . . illuminates the writer’s trade . . . by one of its more elusive practitioners. . . . These essays are well worth reading.”Library Journal

“Catling’s translation will be welcomed by his fans. Catling taught with Sebald in the last decade of his life, and her flowing translation pays crucial attention to the prosody and contours of Sebald’s sentences.”Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • File Size: 7508 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (February 18, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EMXBZQO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,532 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(7)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Sebald is one of the most compelling writers of the last fifty years, and as Susan Sontag remarked, his novels achieve something that is increasingly rare: originality. "The Rings of Saturn," "Austerlitz," "Vertigo," and "The Emigrants" all swept me up in beautiful, haunting, horrifying dream-sequences. I think I'll reread one of his novels yearly or bi-yearly until the day I die. They evade description, which is why I'm falling short here.

The essays do not achieve the same feat. "A Place in the Country" is composed of six essays, each a sort of profile of a different artist Sebald admires. Three of the essays I enjoyed very much, the ones on Tripp, Walser, and especially the essay on Rousseau. In these three it seems that Sebald approaches the best of abilities as written into his novels, yet the other three for me seemed less compelling and more reliant on synopsis and criticism, rather than the dissolution of narrator, subject, and history he's so darn good at.

Part of my disliking of the "other" three essays, as I have called them, is probably due to the dearth of German history in my education and reading. So if you know quite a bit on that subject, maybe you'll find them more interesting.

Alas, Sebald remains Sebald: Each essay brings surprise, each brings pleasure, each brings fear. For those who haven't read Sebald yet, I'd point you to his novels. But for those who read and enjoyed his novels, this collection of essays, while it fails to match the quality of his fiction, nonetheless is worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no one like Sebald. April 27, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I now have all his work published in English. As all reviewers note, his mixture of memory and history, his own and others, is strange and moving and alluring. And, the photographs deepen and isolate the particular tales.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the few really good books May 28, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Sebald is a serious writer and very skillful and careful in his use of words, so the texture of the writing is a pleasure in itself. This book is written around and about the author's walking tour of a part of England, but that falls far short of describing it. A great richness of memory, history and local colour are interwoven in a fascinating tapestry. I felt bereft when i finished the last word.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of the Master... March 19, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anything by this master of prose is worth reading.
Perhaps not as compelling as his famous novels, but
still intriguing and beautifully composed. If only
Sebald had had another 20 years to give us more...
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