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A Place in the Country Hardcover – February 18, 2014
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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
“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
Top customer reviews
I regret that I got in way over my depth.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Maybe you can. Perhaps I'm too impatient. Ah well.