April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
I was not going to read Sebald ever — on the strength of who recommended him; until a positive review in The Economist of the documentary (Patience, After Sebald) changed my mind and convinced me to try. I ordered both the book and the film, the book arrived first and, and so I read it, but the reading soon became largely clinical: I could not get what was so great about it but persisted in reading because I was curious to figure out what others liked. I concluded the task was impossible: the liking of Sebald, like train-spotting, is for radically different brains.
When the documentary arrived, I tried it and it began promising enough with various people explaining their fascination with Rings of Saturn — well, I thought, I will now know what it is all about. Alas, I ended up turning it off after about 2o minutes: for although I understood every word of it, yet I understood nothing of it — the words, like the bars of a Brahms piano piece, did not coalesce into a coherent whole. One person was explaining how she was fascinated by the contrast of three photos: of a mass of dead fish; of the scales of a herring; and a battlefield of World War I. I wanted to know what went on there, she said with emphasis, twice. Her search appears not to have produced any results, however. Another speaker breathlessly recounted his discovery of how walking in East Anglia is walking through unstable element — sand, marsh, fog. (Amazing).
I finally had to give up when a passage from Sebald himself told me in deadpan Germanic accents how he was very interested in tracing how fog appears in different works of literature.
There it was: fog. The metaphor for the whole thing.