A Place in the Country
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A Place in the Country is W. G. Sebald’s meditation on the six artists and writers who shaped his creative mind—and the last of this great writer’s major works to be translated into English.
This beautiful hardcover edition, with a full-cloth case, includes more than 40 pieces of art and 6 full-color gatefolds, all originally selected and laid out by W. G. Sebald.
This extraordinary collection of interlinked essays about place, memory, and creativity captures the inner worlds of five authors and one painter. In his masterly and mysterious style—part critical essay, part memoir—Sebald weaves their lives and art with his own migrations and rise in the literary world.
Here are people gifted with talent and courage yet in some cases cursed by fragile and unstable natures, working in countries inhospitable or even hostile to them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is conjured on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion, hiding from his detractors on the island of St. Pierre, where two centuries later Sebald took rooms adjacent to his. Eighteenth-century author Johann Peter Hebel is remembered for his exquisite and delicate nature writing, expressing the eternal balance of both the outside world and human emotions. Writer Gottfried Keller, best known for his 1850 novel Green Henry, is praised for his prescient insights into a Germany where “the gap between self-interest and the common good was growing ever wider.”
Sebald compassionately re-creates the ordeals of Eduard Mörike, the nineteenth-century German poet beset by mood swings, depression, and fainting spells in an increasingly shallow society, and Robert Walser, the institutionalized author whose nearly indecipherable scrawls seemed an attempt to “duck down below the level of language and obliterate himself” (and whose physical appearance and year of death mirrored those of Sebald’s grandfather). Finally, Sebald spies a cognizance of death’s inevitability in painter Jan Peter Tripp’s lovingly exact reproductions of life.
Featuring the same kinds of suggestive and unexplained illustrations that appear in his masterworks Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, and translated by Sebald’s colleague Jo Catling, A Place in the Country is Sebald’s unforgettable self-portrait as seen through the experiences of others, a glimpse of his own ghosts alongside those of the men who influenced him. It is an essential addition to his stunning body of work.
Praise for A Place in the Country
“Measured, solemn, sardonic . . . hypnotic . . . [W. G. Sebald’s] books, which he made out of classics, remain classics for now.”—Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review
“In Sebald’s writing, everything is connected, everything webbed together by the unseen threads of history, or chance, or fate, or death. The scholarly craft of gathering scattered sources and weaving them into a coherent whole is transformed here into something beautiful and unsettling, elevated into an art of the uncanny—an art that was, in the end, Sebald’s strange and inscrutable gift.”—Slate
“Magnificent . . . The multiple layers surrounding each essay are seamless to the point of imperceptibility.”—New York Daily News
“Sebald’s most tender and jovial book.”—The Nation
“Reading [A Place in the Country is] like going for a walk with a beautifully talented, deeply passionate novelist from Mars.”—New York
you see—Rötteln Castle! The Belchen will be charred and the Blauen, too, like two old towers, and between the two everything will be burnt out, right into the ground. There won’t be any water in the Wiese, everything will be bare and black and deathly quiet, as far as you can see; you’ll see that and say to your mate that’s with you: “Look, that’s where the earth was, and that mountain was called the Belchen. And not far away was Wieslet; I used to live there and harness my oxen, cart wood to
outside him congealed. The veil, too, has changed: no longer thin and fluttering, it has descended to enclose the world it once concealed in a web of darkness.” A dozen years filled with fear and panic await Rousseau after his departure from the Île Saint-Pierre on the twenty-fifth of October. He spends a few days in Bienne, which is under the jurisdiction of the Prince Bishop of Basel and where some of the citizens hope to be able to secure him the right to remain, at least for the winter. He
mercy of the latent paranoia to which he has always been prone and which, in exile, has become acute. His mood oscillates between despondency and exhilaration. A certain J. Craddock relates in his Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs, published in London in 1828, that Rousseau, despite knowing scarcely any English, on a visit to a theatrical production to which he was invited by Garrick was so overcome with weeping at the tragedy performed that evening, and so transported with laughter at the
that the latter is involved in the conspiracy being plotted against him. “For Jean-Jacques,” Jean Starobinski writes, “to live amid persecution is to feel caught in a web of interlocking signs.” Every now and then the states of anxiety abate a little. In Wootton in Derbyshire, where he found refuge in a country house belonging to Richard Davenport, a noble elderly gentleman whose acquaintance he had made at a social gathering in London, he enjoyed a brief period of respite, taking up his
cases, however, these have been adapted where necessary to fit more closely with Sebald’s original. It should, though, also be noted that Sebald often does not quote directly but adapts citations for his own ends. INTRODUCTION Lubow, Arthur. “Crossing Boundaries,” in Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W. G. Sebald, ed. Lynne Sharon Schwartz (New York, London, etc.: Seven Stories Press, 2007), pp. 59—173. Silverblatt, Michael. “A Poem of an Invisible Subject,” in Emergence of Memory, pp.