Sebald, W. G.
(Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald), 1944–2001, German novelist, grad. Freiburg Univ. (1965). Sebald's novels are dense, elegiac, and meditative. They mingle fiction with history and thinly veiled autobiography, and explore the complexities of memory, often as it relates to the Holocaust
. Serious and sardonic, his four novels, Schwindel, Gefühle
(1990, tr. Vertigo,
1999), Die Ausgewanderten
(1992, tr. The Emigrants,
1996), Die Ringe des Saturn
(1995, tr. The Rings of Saturn,
1998), and Austerlitz
(2001, tr. 2001), place him high among contemporary writers. They mainly concern Jewish families and characters and are set in various European cities as well as on Long Island. The books often include uncaptioned images whose relation to the text is not always clear. Indeed, he has been credited with establishing a new hybrid contemporary literary form, one that combines fiction, essay, and photography. He also wrote scholarly works, poetry, and essays. Sebald died in an automobile accident, cutting short a distinguished career. His posthumously published works include On the Natural History of Destruction
(1999. tr. 2003), which discusses German literature's general lack of response to the Allied bombing of World War II, gathered from his lectures; Campo Santo
(tr. 2005), travel essays; Unrecounted
(tr. 2004), late poems; and A Place in the Country
(1998, tr. 2014), biographical essays on five writers and a painter. He taught at the Univ. of East Anglia, Norwich, England, from 1970 until his death.
See L. S. Schwartz, The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W. G. Sebald (2007); studies by R. Görner, ed. (2003), M. R. McCulloh (2003), J. J. Long and A. Whitehead, ed. (2004), S. Denham and M. R. McCulloh, ed. (2006), D. Blackler (2007), and R. Crownshaw et al. (2007).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: German Literature: Biographies