In this final collection of sixteen essays by W. G. Sebald, one of the most elegant and incisive authors of our time, all of his trademark themes are contained--the power of memory and personal history, the connections between images in the arts and life, the presence of ghosts in places and artifacts.
Four pieces pay tribute to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, weaving elegiacally between past and present. In "A Little Excursion to Ajaccio," Sebald visits the birthplace of Napoleon and muses on the hints in his childhood home of a great man's future. Inspired by an Italian cemetery, "Campo Santo" is a reverie on death, ranging from the ambiguity of inscriptions to the size of and adornment of gravestones to the blood-soaked legend of Saint Julien.
Sebald also examines how the works of Gunter Grass and Heinrich Boll reveal "the grave and lasting deformities in the emotional lives" of postwar Germans, how Kafka echoes Sebald's own interest in spirit presences among mortal beings, and how literature can be an attempt at restitution for the injustices of the real world.
Dazzling in its erudition, accessible in its deep emotion, Campo Santo confirms Sebald's place beside Proust and Nabokov, great writers who perceive the invisible connections that determine our lives.
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February 13, 2006
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