In this novel, the trauma of the Holocaust and the more insidious violence of life in its wake are viewed obliquely through the intelligent eyes of its eponymous character—a soft-spoken academic struggling to remember his life prior to arriving orphaned and alone in England in 1969 to be raised by a Welsh minister and his wife. Like all of Sebald's novels before it, Austerlitz is set in post-war Europe. And yet, the narrative seems to unfold at less specific coordinates, where concrete rubble and marble archways hum with all the vibrancy of a natural ecosystem, and common moths are rendered cloaked and collared "like elegant gentlemen on their way to the opera." The more exacting Austerlitz and the narrator are in pursuing his genealogy, the more groundless reality appears. Ultimately, this is a novel about the violence of history’s attempt to impose coherence on memory, and to render the past passed. It remains one of the most beautifully haunting novels I've read.— From Cate
This tenth anniversary edition of W. G. Sebald’s celebrated masterpiece includes a new Introduction by acclaimed critic James Wood. Austerlitz is the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle. A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, Jacques Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist minister and his wife who raise him. When he is a much older man, fleeting memories return to him, and obeying an instinct he only dimly understands, Austerlitz follows their trail back to the world he left behind a half century before. There, faced with the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe, he struggles to rescue his heritage from oblivion.
About the Author
W.G. Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgau, Germany, in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland, and Manchester. He has taught at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, since 1970, becoming professor of European literature in 1987, and from 1989 to 194 was the first director of the British Center for Literary Translation. His three previous books have won a number of international awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Award for fiction, the Berlin Literature Prize, and the Literatur Nord Prize.
“[A] beautiful novel . . . quietly breathtaking . . . Sebald contrives not to offer an ordinary, straightforward recital. For what is so delicate is how Sebald makes Austerlitz’s story a broken, recessed enigma whose meaning the reader must impossibly rescue.”—James Wood, from the Introduction
“Sebald stands with Primo Levi as the prime speaker of the Holocaust and, with him, the prime contradiction of Adorno’s dictum that after it, there can be no art.”—Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
“Sebald is a rare and elusive species . . . but still, he is an easy read, just as Kafka is. . . . He is an addiction, and once buttonholed by his books, you have neither the wish nor the will to tear yourself away.”—Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
“Sebald’s final novel; his masterpiece, and one of the supreme works of art of our time.”—John Banville, The Guardian
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2001 BY
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES • NEW YORK MAGAZINE • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award,
the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize,
and the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize
Translator Anthea Bell—Recipient of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize and
the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize for
Outstanding Translation from German into English