Carole Angier: The strange world of W.G. Sebald 

Carole Angier (Photo by Roderick Field)

W.G. Sebald has been described as “a writer of almost unclassifiable originality”.

You’d be just as likely to encounter his “essayistic semi-fiction” under travel literature, history or fiction. It is all of these things, and none of these things.

Sebald wrote about the plight of emigrants, and in particular, emigrants from the Holocaust.  

His obsessions included survivor’s guilt, the nature of decline and fall, loss and decay, and the downward plunge of nature and history.

“Memories lie slumbering within us for months and years, quietly proliferating,” he writes, “until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life.”

Sebald was also controversial for using other people’s memories and photographs to create his incredibly moving works of art.

Was he a German writer ransacking Jewish stories? Was he a mystic? Where should ethical lines be drawn?

I turned to his biographer to find out.

Carole Angier is the author of several critically acclaimed literary biographies, including Jean Rhys: Life and Work, and The Double Bond: A Life of Primo Levi.

She taught academic and life writing at the University of Warwick and Birkbeck College, University of London, and has edited several books of refugee writing. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002.

We spoke about W.G. Sebald, and her new biography, Speak, Silence.

These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:

We also mentioned:

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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