W. G. Sebald

W. G. Sebald was born in 1944 in Wertach im Allgäu, in the Bavarian alps. After studying in Freiburg and Switzerland, he took up a position at the University of Manchester, settling permanently in England in 1970, where he is now Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of East Anglia. “Sebald’s narratives are a fascinating blend of fiction, autobigraphy and history, unfolded with a melancholy created from the fragments of shattered worlds.” His works include: After Nature (1988), a trilogy of poems; Vertigo (1990), a set of four prose narratives partly about Kafka, Stendhal and Robert Walser; The Rings of Saturn (1995); and The Emigrants (1992) which established his literary reputation, receiving the Berlin Literature Prize, the Literatur Nord Prize and the Johannes Brobowski medal.
The Emigrants (part)

Ferber commented that, purely in terms of time, I was now as far removed from Germany as he had been in 1966; but time, he went on, is an unreliable way of gauging these things, indeed it is nothing but a disquiet of the soul. There is neither a past nor a future. At least, not for me. The fragmentary scenes that haunt my memories are obsessive in character. When I think of Germany, it feels as if there were some kind of insanity lodged in my head. Probably the reason why I have never been to Germany again is that I am afraid to find that this insanity really exists. To me, you see, Germany is a country frozen in the past, destroyed, a curiously extraterritorial place, inhabited by people whose faces are both lovely and dreadful. All of them are dressed in the style of the Thirties, or even earlier fashions, and wearing headgear that does not go with their clothing at all – pilots’ helmets, peaked caps, top hats, ear muffs, crossover headbands, and hand-knitted woollen caps.