Two by German writer W.G. Sebald , The Emigrants and Austerlitz, in connection with another project. I’m taking advantage of the newly released Sebald biography, Speak, Silence (Is that a great title or what?) by Carole Angier to try and make some determination of where Sebald’s work, called a “new genre” between fiction and nonfiction, and that of his progeny, might be handily classified. Not that it has to be classifiable. It’s just that the term “fictional nonfiction”
doesn’t quite do it, now does it? I’ve a list here of fourteen such progeny so once I finish these two volumes it will be off to the bookstore for the lightening round–reading a few paragraphs in many of them for a bit of the flavor. The Guardian reviews Speak, Silence:
It made Sebald’s books unlike any others, in their fascination with coincidences, the way things hang together in forms we don’t expect or understand, their mixture of genres and use of language, and his conviction that literature has to be an ethical activity, inseparable from questions of moral value. They deal with oppression, persecution, war, loss, but never overtly with politics, and his characters are people who have been cast adrift, who feel they have taken wrong paths and misspent their lives. Angier further suggests that the books all reflect Sebald’s deep interest in that which lies beyond our grasp, somewhere between the past and the present, between the living and the dead, reality and dream.The Guardian, “‘Speak, Silence‘ by Carole Angier review–a remarkable book”
The Paris Review wrote in “Ensnaring Sebald”:
What he is most famous for is that his books are uncategorizable. Are they fiction or nonfiction? Are they travel writing, essays, books of history or natural history, biography, autobiography, encyclopedias of arcane facts? His first British publisher, Christopher MacLehose, was so unsure that
he listed The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo under three genres: fiction, travel, and history. (He would really have liked to list them under four, but three was the maximum allowed.) And no one has been sure ever since. Eventually, scholars and critics—and even publishers and booksellers—accepted something surprising but true: Sebald had invented a new genre, balanced somewhere between fiction and nonfiction.The Paris Review, “Ensnaring Sebald”
And two bargain finds, one from the sidewalk in front of my local BAM and the other from Coffee Prose, coffee (and more) and used books in Jackson. Gustave Flaubert’s Madam Bovary of the Modern Critical Interpretations series. The chapter “Narrative Strategies in Madam Bovary” is particularly interesting to me. The late great Harold Bloom says in his introduction, “Flaubert indeed is so at one with
Emma that her love for her is necessarily narcissistic.” The 19th century French Realist was so “at one” with Emma in part no doubt from his style indirect libre, free direct speech, an interior monolog technique.
As for Bulfinch, well, mythology rules! And Bulfinch is the traditional go to reference for mythology–still. I was just walking along the sidewalk passing by the big box bookstore and there on the sidewalk kiosk shelves beside me beckoned a twice marked down Bulfinch’s Mythology, centaurs and gorgons and tunicked goddesses and gods flying out of the book as I picked it up and flipped through it. Serendipity!