Patience (After Sebald)

WG Sebald (1944-2001)

WG Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgau, Germany in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland and Manchester. In 1966 he took up a position as an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester, and settled permanently in England in 1970. He was Professor of European Literature at the University of East Anglia, and the author of Austerlitz; The Emigrants, which won a series of major awards, including the Berlin Literature Prize, the Heinrich Boll Prize, the Heinrich Heine Prize and the Joseph Breitbach Prize; The Rings of Saturn; and Vertigo, among other important works.

WG Sebald wrote in his native tongue, German, and worked closely with his translators, especially Michael Hulse and Anthea Bell, to translate his work into English. He died in December 2001. He is widely regarded as one of the most important post-War European authors, and his work has proved decisively influential on numerous artists, writers and film-makers.

In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized, up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the coast. I wonder now, however, whether there might be something in the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us under the sign of the Dog Star. At all events, in retrospect I became preoccupied not only with the unaccustomed sense of freedom but also with the paralysing horror that had come over me at various times when confronted with the traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past, that were evident even in that remote place. Perhaps it was because of this that, a year to the day after I began my tour, I was taken into hospital in Norwich in a state of almost total immobility. It was then that I began in my thoughts        

- An extract from Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald

Copyright © Eichborn AG, Frankfurt am Main, 1995 | English Translation Copyright © Michael Hulse, 1998 | All rights reserved