Sebald begins with Marie Henri Beyle (better known as Stendhal), cruising through the French author's painful and unreliable recollections of his military career. Then he splices in his own voyage through Italy, allowing these historical and personal perspectives to intersect when we least expect them to. As the book develops, it returns to the same locations: Milan, Verona, Venice, and the Alps. And in the course of this fractured meandering, the reader cohabits with a haunted Franz Kafka, admires the serene beauty of the stars above Lake Garda, and ultimately returns to Sebald's home in Bavaria, where the author confronts his childhood memories.
For Sebald, a straight line is never the shortest distance between two points: he more often travels in concentric circles, or cuts wild capers from past to present. Yet the stumbling journey in Vertigo seeks to replicate the distorted and unfathomable workings of memory itself. And it succeeds to an astonishing extent, so that the acts of traveling, recalling, and writing are impossible to tell apart:
On this occasion in the midst of the holiday season, the night train from Vienna to Venice, on which in the late October of 1980 I had seen nobody except a pale-faced schoolmistress from New Zealand, was so overcrowded that I had to stand in the corridor all the way or crouch uncomfortably among suitcases and rucksacks, so that instead of drifting into sleep I slid into my memories. Or rather, the memories (at least so it seemed to me) rose higher and higher in some space outside of myself, until, having reached a certain level, they overflowed from that space into me, like water over the top of a weir.Thus is the writer inundated. And so, happily, are his readers--those lucky enough to take the plunge. --Toby Green --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Vertigo is the first of the four novel-memoirs written by WG Sebald, and also the first I have read. It is divided into four sections:
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The first of Sebald's journeys into memory, history and so so much more. I recommend all of his books, especially this one.Published 7 months ago by A. Barnes
Sebald is a superb writer, a remarkably innovative stylist. All four of his "novels" are mesmerizing, underwhelming, profound. This, his first, is one to read and reread.Published 8 months ago by jeffrey vincent
Vertigo is a multi-threaded work that weaves a tapestry of images and sensations, a direct mind-to-mind transfusion, an extraordinary accomplishment for what are after all merely... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Tom Lichtenberg
I loved reading about the travel and the history Sebald found in Italy and back to Germany. I had to read it for a class, but once I started I couldn't put it downPublished 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
A collection of four obliquely linked narratives, each a description of a journey over roughly the same terrain, but undertaken at different times, past and present. Read morePublished 19 months ago by meeah
What a dark, brooding book this is. Sebald weaves together these luminous strands of personal memory and broader history and creates a sort of pastiche of resonances between them. Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by jafrank
This book, Sebald's first, was published in 1990. It was translated into English in 1999, in the wake of the critical success of works like The Emigrants and The Rings of... Read morePublished on May 16, 2011 by Reader in Tokyo
An extraordinary travelogue novel by the late Sebald, translated about 10 years after publication. In this debut work, Sebald weaves a thick complex of travel, memory, dream, and... Read morePublished on September 17, 2010 by Steiner