Book 0023

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

Donated by Jude Rosen (Bloomfield), who says...

Austerlitz recalls the world through the eyes of child – literally through his eyes we see miniature snapshots e.g.of the ceiling of Brussels station where he arrived as a refugee…, of statues on the gravestones in Tower Hamlets cemetery. The novel retells the story of the trauma of a Jewish child displaced from Czechoslovakia by the Nazi occupation, losing his mother tongue along with his mother and father and how he pieces together his history retrospectively as an adult…. It is full of wonderful asides – the rebuilding of Liverpool Street station and five pages dedicated to the beauty, diversity and ultimately transitory life of moths – capturing poetically how precious and fragile life is. For years I thought Sebald was himself Jewish, and when I discovered he was an emigre German non-Jew, he grew even more in my estimation because he proves that we can understand each other’s stories and empathise across boundaries of history, nationality and ethnicity. I can think of no greater postwar novel for someone to be drawn into reading and captivated by the story and the wonder of writing to reach us.

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