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Friday, January 18, 2013

=2013 Books Read=

W.G. Sebald

A collection of four obliquely linked narratives, each a description of a journey over roughly the same terrain, but undertaken at different times, past and present. Stendhal makes an appearance along the way, as do Casanova and Kafka. Images recur, as do certain events, although in different contexts and with slight variations in detail. The result is a dreamy, hypnotic, almost stream-of-consciouness style, allusive, elusive, and elliptical that seems as much the subject of "Vertigo" as does anything that actually happens in the novel. Sebald depicts a way of experiencing the world that is as poetic as it is disorienting as it is addictive. The "vertigo" of the title refers to the dizzying sensation one has when the past one remembers is not verified by the facts as they appear at present. One stands at the edge of the gap between the two and stares down into an abyss. Is everything, then, even the events of our own lives, truly unknowable? If so, Sebald seems to suggest that the best way to deal with this otherwise terrifying uncertainty is to drift through life as on an endless voyage, holding on to nothing too fiercely, letting it all flow past like the scenery in a train window.    

Memorable lines:

"Casanova likened a lucid mind to a glass, which does not break of its own accord. Yet how easily it is shattered. One wrong move is all that it takes."

"The more images I gathered from the past the more unlikely it seemed to me that the past had actually happened in this or that way, for nothing about it could be called normal: most of it was absurd, and if not absurd, then appalling."

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