the rings of saturn

The moose recently read The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald.

It was amazing.

I don’t know how long it has been since I read something genuinely new in literature. Sebald is, and it is a tragedy he died so suddenly a few years ago. If they give out the Nobel post-humously, he should be a shoe in.

Is it autobiography, fiction, medititave essay or history? It is all and none, a seamless, dreamy blend one loses oneself in, loses the narrator, loses everything but the thread of the moment as it draws us through experience. Uncaptioned photographs, often taken by the author, others historical, are scattered through the text.

Sebald’s great theme in Rings of Saturn is memory and loss. As he walks the english countryside the slightest sideways glance can lead across centuries of time and oceans in examination of the minutae of forgotten worlds bursting with promise and vitality, now all but lost to us. Each thread followed, story unravelling until astounding tapestries are revealed, profound and moving meditations on human striving, the epic horror of human suffering, and what remains.

What really affected me is that for the first time ever I have found an example of what I want my next novel to be like; only partially at that, but the associative, detailed dreamscape I have sensed but never seen is here for the first time revealed as possible, in the most majestic and triumphant sense. My themes and interests differ from Sebald’s, and whatever form my future work eventually takes will differ greatly, but it is so heartening to see a lantern in the wilderness, a guide post from one who has forged ahead, where before there was naught. (Perhaps I overstate the case in the first blush of enthusiasm; I have far from integrated the experience, and wish to explore Sebald further before coming to anything like a conclusion. Yet to even temporarily bypass my critical filters, something extraordinary must be at work.)

We have not but scratched the surface of what prose can do and be. Sebald is one who has gone deeper.

2 Responses to “the rings of saturn”

  1.   michael
    February 26th, 2007 | 12:01 am

    I know you are talking about being affected, but it doesn’t mean you need to use constructions like “has not but” + past participle. 😉

    Sorry, the book does sound intriguing and I can only imagine the buzz involved, inspiration-wise.

  2.   Administrator
    February 27th, 2007 | 10:27 am

    One cannot wank on about literature without some wank. 😉