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The Emigrants Paperback – September 17, 1997
"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote's scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York's society "swans" of the 1950s. Learn more | See related books
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Sebald's own longing is for communion. En route to Ithaca (the real upstate New York location but also the symbolic one), he comes to feel "like a travelling companion of my neighbor in the next lane." After the car speeds away--"the children pulling clownish faces out of the rear window--I felt deserted and desolate for a time." Sebald's narrative is purposely moth-holed (butterfly-ridden, actually--there's a recurring Nabokov-with-a-net type), an escape from the prison-house of realism. According to the author, his Uncle Ambros's increasingly improbable tales were the result of "an illness which causes lost memories to be replaced by fantastic inventions." Luckily for us, Sebald seems to have inherited the same syndrome. --Kerry Fried
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Each section is like a lingering film camera shot of an innocent family photo. The lens slowly pulls back to reveal slight discoloration of the edges, then the charred page of a photo album, then only at the very end of the view the ruins of the house that held it, the rubble of the city around it.
Sebald blends fiction, memory and history. He weaves pictures and words. He researched his novels by visiting war archives and sifting through piles of postcards, maps, photos and magazine pictures. Some of them end up in his books, but infused with his artist's imagination.
This is what Truman Capote might have written, if he had been a brilliant and sublime novelist instead of a journalistic raconteur.
I'm tempted to omit the fact that this is a book "about" the Holocaust, for fear that people who were assigned to read Eli Weisel in high school will politely click the page on me and think, "OK, well, I know what that's like."
The Holocaust in this book is a negative space, a hole into which things go and never come out. If it is mentioned by name at all, it is only once or twice. It's like the silent, immense black hole that astronomers find in the middle of the Milky Way. The bright stars we watch at night pinwheel around it.
The novel shows how people warp under the weight of their inherited identity, which is something modern Americans and Germans share.
Critics compared Sebald to Ingmar Bergman, Kafka and Proust.Read more ›
I enjoyed this book more than "The Rings of Saturn" because of the four seemingly different stories that are united by the themes of loss and displacement. Sebald has a very penetrating eye for his character's condition and a displaced, frank way of writing about them to involve the reader in their lives. I think of Sebald's writing like conceptual art - despite the tangential and oblique elements, the idea that is evoked is so strong that it remains with the reader long after the reading. There are few other writers that I've found that can write as poignantly and uniquely about the human condition of alienation and sorrow, with the longing for connection and communion.
That said, this book (and Austerlitz) isn't exactly for everyone. I've tried recommending it some friends who felt it was too "meandering and emotive". I didn't quite agree with them, but lately, I'm beginning to see their point -- you've got to be in a right frame of mind to enjoy Sebald. If you're a sucker for plot-drive, high-octane stories, then this may not be for you, but if you're more contemplative and patient, this could be the most rewarding book you'll read in a long while.
The Emigrants are four men whose life stories Sebald explores in his meandering multiple media way. All of them are people that played some kind of part in Sebald's life, if only tangentially, like his temporary landlord in England, who had come from Lithuania to England, married a rich Swiss woman, got estranged and poor and became an ornamental hermit, in his own words. One man is his granduncle who emigrated to the US and became an appendix of a rich Jewish banking family. One is a former teacher who had been banned from teaching during the Third Reich, being a 'quarter Jew', but was not banned from soldiering for six years; when the war was over he went back to his old profession,taught Sebald for a while, but could not stand this life for long and went abroad. One is a painter, an aquaintance of Sebald's from his student time in Manchester, who escaped from the holocaust trap to England just in time, but whose parent got left behind to perish. The men share a deep melancholia or depression, and all find an end either by their own hand or by diseases aquired by lifestyle choice. The state of being an exile is not explored analytically, but phenomenologically. The tales of 4 men dive deeply into European history and civilization.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written and very interesting subject. This is a time in history rarely revealed. I would recommend the Emigrants for most audiences.Published 24 days ago by Lucibella
"The Emigrants" contains four cameos of Jews who left Germany during the thirties; two commit suicide, one dies under sedation in Ithaca, New York and the last one's demise... Read morePublished 3 months ago by John E. Drury
Although this book won numerous awards and is provided, in translation, in a poetic and, hence, lofty form, it is a challenge to connect its component parts until the end. Read morePublished 3 months ago by DR, critic at large
Sebald is one of the greatest, and should be read by every serious human being. He gives with respect and generosity a solid existence to his semi- fictional protagonists. Read morePublished 4 months ago by pamela friedland
If you translate Die Ausgewanderten as "The Emigrants," you lose the many shades of its meaning. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Hung-Tak Lee
I really did not care for this. A bit too meandering and not quite thought provoking as much as languid and obscure. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Thedoc
Like Sebald's other books they are simply an extraordinary example of writing and story telling. In particular, in this book he writes of the still unbelievable viciousness that... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Gerard Muller