In another essay, developing his reasons for admiring W. G. Sebald, [James Wood] contrasts him with some of his more popular contemporaries:
What is remarkable about The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn is the reticent artificiality of Sebald's narration, whereby fact is taken from the real world and made fictional. This is the opposite of the trivial "factional" breeziness of writers such as Julian Barnes and Umberto Eco, who take facts and superficially destabilize them within fiction, who make facts quiver a little, but whose entire work is actually in homage to the superstition of fact . . . . Facts are a sport for such writers . . . . For Sebald, however, facts are indecipherable, and therefore tragic.From James Wood's The Broken Estate as reviewed by Gabriel Josipovici.