A literature of restitution

Critical essays on W. G. Sebald

In an essay "Ein Versuch der Restitution (An Attempt at Restitution)" delivered as a form of a speech at the opening of Stuttgart's House of Literature, W. G. Sebald asked about the usefulness of literature. This book illustrates some of the recurring concerns of, and tensions in, Sebald's writing: the interanimation of historical and literary discourses, and the clash of individual and collective memories. The coincidence of life and death, and the collision of documentary evidence with the contingent powers of the imagination are also explored. The first set of essays is devoted to issues of translation and style, and explores the revisionist potential of translation, and the question of translation into Sebald's poetry. It is argued that Sebald sought to follow Franz Kafka's stricture through the strategic deployment of 'unwords'. The book examines Sebald's prose works with a reading of Vertigo as an exercise in Surrealist literary historiography, and suggests that The Emigrants can be read as a contest between vision and obscurity. The implications of historical blind spots are pursued in the reading of Anglo-Irish themes in The Rings of Saturn. The various fragments of Sebald's aborted 'Corsica Project' offer a precious glimpse into a work-in-progress. The book investigates the extent to which H.G. Adler's work functions as a key intertext for Austerlitz, and helped determine Sebald's role and identity as a writer attempting to render aspects of the Holocaust. It also explores the two key aspects of Sebald's aesthetic technique, namely prose and photography.

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‘I enjoyed every essay in this collection and recommend this book to students who encounter Sebald in any of their university courses, and for any reader who has already embarked on a journey with Sebald. The collection is fresh, adding a completely new set of reference points for the scholar and opens up underdeveloped areas for further research, for example, Sebald and the theatre. This book adds to the already rich body of work surrounding Sebald, and reading it will leave the reader in even greater awe of this great writer.'
Tielman de Villiers. University of Hertfordshire
British Society for Literature and Science reviews
September 2016

‘The volume's organizing principle, the question of restitution, lends this book a much clearer profile than other edited volumes on Sebald. Taken together, the contributions provide readers with an excellent overview of Sebald's oeuvre...The variety of perspectives from both within and beyond German Studies further sets this volume apart from other publications by offering fresh insights and new contexts within which to consider Sebald's works.'
Lynn L. Wolff, Michigan State University
Modern Language Review Volume 111, Part 2
April 2016

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