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W.G. Sebald

German novelist and poet

W. G. Sebald was born Winfried George Maximillian Sebald in Wertach im Allgäu, in the Bavarian Alps in 1944. From 1975 he taught at the University of East Anglia, became Professor of German in 1986, and was the first director of the British Centre for Translation. He won the Berlin Literature, Literatur Nord, and Mörike Prizes, as well as the Johannes Bobrowski medal, plus the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction (The Rings of Saturn). New Directions was the first to publish his book here: The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, and Vertigo. He died in an automobile accident in Norfolk, England, near his home in Norwich in East Anglia, England, on December 14, 2001.


Vertigo

Fiction by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

Perfectly titled, Vertigo —W.G. Sebald's marvelous first novel — is a work that teeters on the edge: compelling, puzzling, and deeply unsettling.

An unnamed narrator, beset by nervous ailments, journeys across Europe to Vienna, Venice, Verona, Riva, and finally to his childhood home in a small Bavarian village. He is also journeying into the past. Traveling in the footsteps of Stendhal, Casanova, and Kafka, the narrator draws the reader, line by line, into a dizzying web of history, biography, legends, literature, and — most perilously — memories.



The Rings of Saturn

by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

*The Rings of Saturn*, with its curious archive of photographs, records a walking tour of the eastern coast of England. A few of the things that cross the path and mind of its narrator (who both is and is not Sebald) are lonely eccentrics. Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson", the natural history of the herring, Borges, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, Sir Thomas Browne's skull, recession-hit seaside towns, Joseph Conrad, the once-thriving silk industry of Norwich, Swinburne, the dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, and the massive bombings of WWII.

Mesmerized by the mutability of all things, the narrator catalogs the transmigration of whole worlds: "On every new thing, there lies already the shadow of annihilation."



The Emigrants

by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at first to be the straightforward biographies of four Germans in exile. Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher, and Great Uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes of exile which lead from Lithuania to London, from Munich to Manchester, from the South German provinces to Switzerland, France, New York, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Along with memories, documents, and diaries of the Holocaust, he collects photographs—the enigmatic snapshots which stud The Emigrants and bring to mind family photo albums. Sebald combines precise documentary with fictional motifs, and as he puts the question to realism, the four stories merge into one unfathomable requiem.



Sebald Set

by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

New Directions is delighted to announce beautiful new editions of these three classic Sebald novels, including his two greatest works, The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn. All three novels are distinguished by their translations, every line of which Sebald himself made pitch-perfect, slaving to carry into English all his essential elements: the shadows, the lambent fallings-back, nineteenth-century Germanic undertones, tragic elegiac notes, and his unique, quiet wit.



Vertigo (Old Edition)

Fiction by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

Vertigo is the marvelous first novel by W.G. Sebald: "The most exciting, and most mysteriously sublime, of contemporary European writers" (James Wood, The New Republic). An unnamed narrator, beset by nervous ailments, journeys across Europe to Vienna, Venice, Verona, Riva, and finally to his childhood home in a small Bavarian village. He is also journeying into the past. Traveling in the footsteps of Stendhal, Casanova and Kafka, the narrator draws the reader line by line into a dizzying web of history, biography, autobiography, legends, literature, and — most perilously — memories.



The Emigrants (Old Edition)

Fiction by W.G. Sebald

translated by Michael Hulse

The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at first to be the straightforward biographies of four Germans in exile. Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher, and Great Uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes of exile which lead from Lithuania to London, from Munich to Manchester, from the South German provinces to Switzerland, France, New York, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Along with memories, documents, and diaries of the Holocaust, he collects photographs—the enigmatic snapshots which stud The Emigrants and bring to mind family photo albums. Sebald combines precise documentary with fictional motifs, and as he puts the question to realism, the four stories merge into one unfathomable requiem.


Available: October 01 1997


Unrecounted

Poetry by W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp

translated by Michael Hamburger

W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp were friends from their schooldays. Unrecounted combines 33 of what W.G. Sebald called his "micro-poems"—miniatures as unclassifiable as all his works—with 33 lithographs by the acclaimed artist Jan Peter Tripp. The art and the poems do not explain one another, but rather engage in a kind of dialog. "The longer I look at the pictures of Jan Peter Tripp," Sebald comments in his essay, "the better I understand that behind the illusions of the surface, a dread-inspiring depth is concealed. It is the metaphysical lining of reality, so to speak." The lithographs portray with stunning exactness pairs of eyes: among them the eyes of Beckett, Borges, Proust, Jasper Johns, Francis Bacon, Tripp, and Sebald. The poems are anti-narrative, epiphanic and brief as haiku. What the author calls "time lost, the pain of remembering, and the figure of death" here find a small home.

 

 

In deepest sleep

a Polish mechanic
came and for
a thousand silver dollars made me
a new perfectly functioning head

 

 


 

Terrible

is the thought of our worn-
out clothes

 

 


Available: October 01 1991


Urn Burial

Nonfiction by Thomas Browne

with a contribution by W.G. Sebald

Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial, is one of the pinnacles of Renaissance scholarship and without doubt one of the great essays in English literature. Beginning with observations on the recent discovery of Roman antiquities in the form of burial urns, Browne’s associative mind wanders to elephant graveyards, to pre-Christian cremation ceremonies, and finally to the idea of Christian burial. Browne then explores, with a more melancholic meditation, man’s struggles with mortality and the uncertainty of his fate and fame in the living world. This edition includes a magisterial discourse on Sir Thomas Browne taken from the first chapter of W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.


Available: October 26 1990