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“The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, an organization devoted to project-based study of visual technologies, issued a call for submissions for critical essays and artist projects related to the work of W.G. Sebald. The overwhelming response to this call precipitated the development of this ambitious anthology [Searching for Sebald: Photography After W.G. Sebald, ed. Lise Patt].

With 632 densely populated pages, this volume presented challenges of scale, organization, and cohesion. Within four thematic sections, 38 contributors present illustrated arguments and diverse visual explorations. These are separated with editorial ‘intermezzos.’ A framing introduction with extensive illustrated footnotes establishes the complexity of this multifaceted dialogue.”

JulieFry.com

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W. G. Sebald

“But the fact is that writing is the only way in which I am able to cope with the memories which overwhelm me so frequently and so unexpectedly.”

— W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

The London Review Bookshop in London has cited László Krasznahorkai as their July author of the month. “His distinctively dystopian, somewhat melancholic style has placed him at the forefront of modern European literature, with W.G. Sebald remarking of him ‘The universality of Krasznahorkai’s vision rivals that of Gogol’s Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.'” [Read More]

David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser
David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser

Spent some time yesterday afternoon touring the Universität Basel in Switzerland. Aside from walking the city streets and dipping my feet into the Rhine, I’ve been devoting some time to reading. As I mentioned in previous posts (1, 2), I am enjoying Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I am also slipping back into the world Twin Peaks, which has reignited my fascination with all things Lynchian. Here are a few of the articles that have caught my attention over the last day or so:

LA Weekly has posted a fantastic gallery of David Lynch shooting locations, with accompanying stills from Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire • “[A] heady whiff of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton” — Tom Huddleston recaps episodes 5-6 of Twin Peaks: The Return • German image-maker Michael Wolf‘s first retrospective exhibition shows urban living at its most extreme • Listen to the history of rock music before and after Radiohead‘s OK Computer • Ali Smith on meeting W.G. Sebald • The pros and cons of the digitized Walt Whitman and his “lost” novels • Miroslaw Balka and Joseph Rykwert discuss how art and architecture shape the politics of memory around conflict • Why American modernism is older than you think

A new short story collection from NYRB celebrates what is enigmatic about everyday minutiae

Robert Walser, Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories (NYRB, 2016)
Robert Walser, Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories (NYRB, 2016)
Feuilleton. Traditionally, a ‘feuilleton’ is a portion at the bottom of a French newspaper that is kept free for light literature, criticism, and commentary. It derives from the word ‘feuille’, meaning ‘leaf’. By its very nature, the feuilleton is marginal and fragmentary. For the early twentieth-century author Robert Walser, this became an ideal medium for his wandering and ephemeral style.

The NYRB’s wonderful new collection of the Swiss writer’s short texts, entitled Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories, allows us to leaf through a life of extraordinary writing. The German writer and academic W. G. Sebald, using Walser’s own words, described him as a ‘clairvoyant of the small’, a writer of prose ‘at odds with the demands of high culture’. Tom Whalen’s afterword to the NYRB volume echoes this sentiment, recognizing in Walser a sensibility of ‘sovereign insignificance’. Whalen continues: ‘For the fueilletonist anything can be an occasion for a prose piece: a walk in the mountains, a new hairstyle, an old fountain, shopwindows, a kitten, a carousel, a Parisian newspaper’. As Walser drifts aimlessly through the modern European city, we share his curiosity and wonder at the small details of this strange and peculiar life. (more…)

Francis O’Gorman describes how his tendency to worry led him to investigate its cultural and literary origins. We talk about Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes stories, and the prominence of ‘worry’ in everyday life
Francis O'Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History
Francis O’Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History

What motivated you to write the book?

There’s a very short answer to that: I’m a worrier and I wanted to think about what that meant. Several people have asked me why a literary critic would write such a book, and whether I am merely using literature as a kind of case study, as representation. But for me being a literary critic means reading as intently and alertly as possible. And that includes, where necessary, reading the patterns of one’s own mind.

What exactly is ‘worry’, and why is it so difficult to pin down?

I don’t think that there is an ‘exactly’ in relation to worry. In the book, my topic is being fearful about the turn of ordinary things. Worry—those questions in the mind that mostly start with ‘what if …’—is a way of trying to take some control over a future that we don’t know but would like to. Worrying isn’t a ‘mental health’ book in that it doesn’t concern conditions of mind that would even vaguely interest a clinician. And I don’t write about grave worries—including worries about the grave. I’m interested, rather, in the mundane, in the meaning of low level bothers about what might happen next. (more…)

A call for papers for a panel at the upcoming ACLA conference in Utrecht, July 2017


This sounds interesting. Tom Chadwick has been in touch about something he is organizing for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. He and co-organizer Pieter Vermeulen are putting together a panel exploring the relationship between contemporary literature and the archive, and they want to hear from you! (more…)

An extract from James Wood’s 2011 review of Open City for the New Yorker
Teju Cole, Open City
Teju Cole, Open City
Publishers now pitch their books like Hollywood concepts, so Teju Cole’s first novel, “Open City” (Random House; $25), is being offered as especially appealing to “readers of Joseph O’Neill and Zadie Smith,” and written in a prose that “will remind you” of W. G. Sebald and J. M. Coetzee. This is shorthand for “post-colonialism in New York” (O’Neill), “lively multiracial themes” (Smith), “free-flowing form with no plot, narrated by a scholarly solitary walker” (Sebald), “obviously serious” (Coetzee), and “finely written” (all of the above). There is the additional comedy that Cole’s publishers, determined to retain the baby with the bathwater, boldly conjoin Smith and O’Neill, despite Smith’s hostility, advertised in an essay entitled “Two Paths for the Novel,” to O’Neill’s expensive and upholstered “lyrical realism.”

(more…)

W. G. Sebald
W. G. Sebald
From a 2000 interview by Jens Mühling

Sebald: Being a writer is by no means an easy profession. It is full of difficulties, full of obstacles. For a start, there is the psychology of the author, which is not a simple one. There are these situations when suddenly nothing seems to work anymore, when you feel unable to say anything. In such cases it is very helpful if someone can tell you that this happens to everybody, and show you how one might deal with such problems. In these situations it is very often the case that people neglect the research aspect. Every writer knows that sometimes the best ideas come to you while you are reading something else, say, something about Bismarck, and then suddenly, somewhere between the lines, your head starts drifting, and you arrive at the ideas you need. This research, this kind of disorderly research, so to speak, is the best way of coping with these difficulties. If you sit in front of a blank sheet of paper like a frightened rabbit, things won’t change. In such situations you just have to let it be for a while. (more…)

Granta publishes an extract from Sebald’s Vertigo, translated from the German by Michael Hulse
W. G. Sebald's passport.
W. G. Sebald’s passport.

In October 1980 I travelled from England, where I had then been living for nearly twenty-five years in a county which was almost always under grey skies, to Vienna, hoping that a change of place would help me get over a particularly difficult period in my life. In Vienna, however, I found that the days proved inordinately long, now they were not taken up by my customary routine of writing and gardening tasks, and I literally did not know where to turn. Early every morning I would set out and walk without aim or purpose through the streets of the inner city, through the Leopoldstadt and the Josefstadt. Later, when I looked at the map, I saw to my astonishment that none of my journeys had taken me beyond a precisely defined sickle- or crescent-shaped area, the outermost points of which were the Venediger Au by the Praterstern and the great hospital precincts of the Alsergrund. If the paths I had followed had been inked in, it would have seemed as though a man had kept trying out new tracks and connections over and over, only to be thwarted each time by the limitations of his reason, imagination or will power, and obliged to turn back again. (more…)