File Size: 5291 KB
Print Length: 260 pages
Publisher: New Directions; Tra edition (November 8, 2016)
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
We Americans are for the most part immigrants. We descend from emigrants who left their homelands.
The work is suffused with the stroy of some emigrants and their history in the context of the bigger historical past around them.
It is a webpage turner and am read the book in two sittings. Sebald weaves history, places, people, problems in an expert style that is both sad,
thought provoking and abundant with imagery and allusion. Strongly recommended if you are not into thrillers or romance., I actually don't have the right words to describe the book. I enjoyed it from conclusion to conclusion. Read better reviews at Amazon, and the NYC Times review is on target. W. G. Sebald's use of language is something special. He produces with long sentences and wonderful prose. To me, it was a pleasure just reading the words formed into descriptions, ideas, and dialog. Most interesting to me was the lack of quotation marks when someone was speaking, but it was completely clear who was speaking. He never had to say in words that he was telling the reader about Jews in exile; he did it in ways you knew. I loved the book! I love reading historical novels especially related to WWII, but this wasn't so much of the physical destruction of war but of the emotional implications and how it uprooted people in body and soul., Long short stories concerning exile, literally and phsychologically, each in the same obsessive, hypnotic style translated brilliantly from the German. As in 'Austerlitz' (in my thoughts and opinions his masterpiece) he takes us via himself as narrator, observing, learning and retelling, the life stories of four emigrants from Europe. It's all in the intensity: long sentences, digressions and information - especially of structures - dug out of the memories and feelings of the speakers who flow with words. Sebald's reconstructing of places and eye - or hearing - to detail, makes him a superb historical novelist, spilling into memoirs is actually impossible to believe come out of the head of the writer and not genuine people. Surely they really exist and Sebald is definitely recording them? I can never put down an e book by Sebald. How heartbreaking he is gone., This strange novel at first frustrated and confounded me. It's cluttered with old photographs, furniture, clothing, Western european and American place-names, The german language and German Jewish surnames, holidays, defunct European institutions, sewing supplies, music, the names of plants, and more. All of this detritus is deceptive and fascinating and important to the stories of the lives lived, and now eliminated.
Similarly, nevertheless for different reasons, EL Doctorow's " Ragtime" did this, too.
Allusions to Nabokov, butterflies, and Nabokov's amusement at Us place-names shadow some of the action, and I actually did not fully understand why - other than perhaps as a sort of symbol of longing-for-place.
You are gripped by all of these goods and stories: their once-upon-a-time existence, their owners, their disappearance, and - miraculously - their return. Typically the material culture of the early twentieth century is used, fabulously and unrepentantly, in order to summon memory, show God in the details, and also to illustrate damage. There is not any nostalgia here.
An amazing and successful effort by a German born in 1944 to come to words with the unthinkable: Germany's attempt to destroy Western european Jewry, and Europe, really, too. A wholly original and proficiently disturbing book.,... survive. There have recently been literally thousands of books written about the Holocaust, and I have read my share of Primo Levi, but WG Sebald's "The Emigrants" needs to be in the most notable five in conveying their absolute horror and damage. He manages to attain this rather elliptically, and with much understatement, by depicting the lives of four those who "got in time, " nevertheless they were never able to conquer the terrible dislocation that occurred, and in the majority of the cases it resulted in destruction, direct, or incidental, as may very well have been the case with Levi. This dislocation has occurred to others, and continues to occur today, but in words of graphics, I think of a drawing at a friend's house, of Toby Jackson, holding an uprooted tree, and if one seems closely, one realizes that the tree is made up of those who composed the Cherokee Nation, who were forcibly relocated from their homeland by him.
"The Emigrants" consists on the stories of four individuals, one from Lithuania, three from Germany, all whom were very much citizens, and felt as though they belonged to their nations, but who were also Jewish, or only somewhat Jewish, and in varying ways were rejected by their homeland. They went, or were forced into relégation. Sebald writes masterfully, and the stories mount in a rising crescendo of nuance, complexity and sadness, from Dr. Henry Selwyn who becomes a hermit on his own estate, through the college teacher; John Bereyter, Jewish enough to be denied his educating post, but not Jewish enough to prevent being drafted into the Wehrmacht; to Ambros Adlewarth, who managed to get to America, and served as a butler of sorts to exclusive Jewish families; and finally to Max Ferber, the artist who escaped to Stansted, England. There are quite a few thoughtful reviews of this book, and I do not need to duplicate their descriptions of these stories.
Sebald is a masterful author, with excellent erudition, who weaves esoteric facts and tales into his main story, without it ever before seeming contrived. For example, there is the "butterfly man, " who makes a cameo appearance throughout the book, and who is Vladimir Nabokov, the lepidopterist, and one of the ultimate Jewish emigrants, who had to leave his cozy life in his native Czarist Russia, but later capture that period in his excellent autobiography, "Speak, Memory. " And there is Coubert's piece of art, "The Oak of Vercingetorix, " which appears in the story on the painter Max Ferber. There is also a masterful symbol of the "proud tower" that was Europe in 1913, in which Sebald paints the life span of the "rich and famous" in Deauville (France) that would have been worth, and could have come from the pages of Marcel Proust. Sebald introduces a new novelist technique of including black and white photographs which illustrate his story, and are referenced on the page which they occur. The pictures are often grainy, and even out of concentrate, and none are more serious than the one of the storyteller by the ocean on page fifth 89. At first I believed this technique dreadful, but as I progressed through the book, I realized how important we were holding as an integral part of the story; they were the "real life" of genuine family photos, the set-piece poses, the skewed perspectives, all of which appeared to fit properly by the conclusion of the publication.
Sadly, six months in the past I had never heard of Sebald, and now I know that he is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and the credit goes to the Amazon review program, and the strong recommendation of a fellow reviewer, L. M. Peterson, my "neighbor to the north" in Santa Fe. Kudos to both for the enriching recommendations. "The Rings of Saturn" will not be far behind. Obviously a 5-star plus book.
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