Sunday, December 03, 2006

Links

Antonia points me to this great article about W. G. Sebald's life and early inspiration for his literary career.

Readers have sometimes expressed discomfort with this connection, accusing Sebald of inappropriately identifying with the Jewish victims of National Socialism, as if he, too, were an "exile" of history. The objection is misguided, however, for Sebald never forgot the distinction between the forced exile of the Nazi period and his own voluntary postwar emigration; his entire work offers an eloquent tribute to the memory and memorialization of that historical difference. However, his literary imagination naturally sought out points of contact and continuity. For his book about four aging "emigrants," he deliberately avoided the term exilierte, preferring instead the capacious and somewhat antiquated term ausgewanderte (literally, those who have "wandered" or "gone out") in order to include his own family history of emigration. The Jewish exiles of National Socialism are but one, admittedly central part of a much broader pattern of modern displacement reaching back to the French Revolution (with an implicit titular reference to Goethe's Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten) and the economic emigrations of both Jews and Germans from Central Europe during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sebald's semiautobiographical literary work is thus premised on a dual identity: as the son of a Wehrmacht officer who bears witness to the victims of German violence, but also as a member of his grandfather's nonmilitary, emigrant family who identifies with these victims existentially.


The article is actually a part of biographical study of Sebald that the author, Mark Anderson, is working on. It is interesting how little information about his personal life is available. I was surprised for example when I read in the book Understanding W G Sebald that he was a very cheerful and lively person in real life. His books contain some of the most eloquent portraits of melancholic figures that I have ever encountered in literature, either as the narrators themselves or the people they talk about in the book. I hope I will get a chance the read the book.

Also there is another old article written by the same author on Thomas Bernhard which I came across recently. He has translated Bernhard's The Loser too.

Finally a link to "Kierkegaard Blog Carnival" which features my "review" of a Kierkegaard biography. I wrote the review without even finishing the whole book (it runs to almost thousand pages), but other links look good. I haven't read anything yet, but I am going to.

P.S. Anurag is now asking me to change the name of my blog to "Sebald and Bernhard."

20 comments:

Antonia said...

hi alok, glad you like the essay....I wasn't at all suprised that he was a cheerfulperson in life somehow....
the Kierkegaardlink is interesting, that is an interesting blog...and it leads again to here ...so many links...

Alok said...

Yeah he does come across as a very admirable figure after you have read his books. But his books are so obsessed with death, separation, homelessness and melancholy that I felt he must be a depressive in real life too! May be if you have a good understanding of these things, and he of course certainly had, and learn to see these things from a larger and mature perspective, the sadness goes away.

Antonia said...

maybe yes maybe no,...but I found it often goes hand in hand, melancholy people that are cheerful.....outside cheerful, inside melancholy....
and do you rename your blog in Sebald & Bernhard?

Alok said...

Anurag was joking that most of my posts these days are about these two writers, so it would be better if I renamed my blog :)

I really love both of them. I discovered both of them only recently in the last year or so. They are two of my all time favourites now...

Antonia said...

so that's a good reason then to rename your blog....and they are great,I think that too :)

Cheshire Cat said...

That's a very insightful piece on Bernhard. Specially loved the phrase "a childlike rage and humor propelled his sentences". Such a contrast to "Mendele" Sebald...

Alok said...

yeah, the two seem to complement each other. one is expert in repression and other is opposite, an expert in expressing all the repressed negativity...

also i found this interesting...

In closing, one should commend the translators and the publisher for bringing these bizarre, irritating and very funny stories into English at a time when commercial presses shy away from "difficult" work in translation. (Sebald is a surprising exception, though it is unlikely his genre-defying work would have received such broad acclaim without the current vogue of Holocaust memory.)

Now after having read him, I am surprised to see how little known and little read Bernhard remains in america or outside europe in fact... most of his books are published by university presses, not even commercial publishers!

steve said...

Actually, Jack Dawson translated The Loser. Anderson provided an Afterword.

Alok said...

Steve: Jack Dawson is the pseudonym of Anderson himself :)

Mark M. Anderson, a professor of German at Columbia University, translated Thomas Bernhard's The Loser under the pseudonym Jack Dawson.

steve said...

Oh, right. A pseudonym for a translator. How pretentious!

Alok said...

yup, but remember he is a professor, no ordinary translator :)

Antonia said...

Bernhard's books published by universitypress???
Really? No. This is crazy.....but as such itself a topic for a wonderful Bernhard book....

Alok said...

Yeah, most of his books in the US are published by University of Chicago Press.

I sometimes try to imagine what could have happened if he wrote while living in the George W. Bush's America, or indeed my own country India (two countries I know and have lived in), lands of cultural chauvinism, absurd delusions and most obscene provincialism and then I shudder at the thought... :)

Antonia said...

"cultural chauvinism, absurd delusions and most obscene provincialism"

we have plenty of that here in Europe as well,especially Austria where he had lived.....but maybe this would have been a real challenge,George W.,that would have been an encounter....

Alok said...

May be they would have him sent to the Guantanamo prison camp or some such place for endangering "national security" or siding with the terrorists! The logic here is simple... you can't criticise your country and not be with the terrorists.

Antonia said...

no?

Alok said...

well, it's not that far from reality...

Antonia said...

unfortunately,yes

the cynic librarian said...

Alok, Thanks for the link, not to mention the short review. Now maybe you'll read the rest of the book! :-)

Alok said...

thanks to you, for organizing the carnival! the posts you have selected are of exteremely high quality. i have bookmarked your link for future reading too.