Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reticent artificiality

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.


  1. Anonymous7:38 am

    I've seen mention of a Josipovici review of The Emigrants, but I've never been able to get ahold of it, and I've always been curious what he would have to say about Sebald. I thought I remembered him dismissing Sebald at the lecture on Modernism he gave at Sussex, though, which always puzzled me, so the implied concurrence with Wood's admiration is all the more interesting.

  2. Yes, he reviewed The Emigrants for the Jewish Chronicle I think. Never seen it either, but he does call it a masterpiece.

  3. The fine blog Vertigo: Collecting & Reading W.G. Sebald has now posted (twice manually retyped!) the Josipovici review. Check the link below if it appears, or the Google.



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