After disliking Austerlitz, I sort of groaned when I found out that I had to plow through another Sebald but this time round I quite enjoyed Vertigo and as the quotes say, it is definitely original and unique.
The main plot is about a narrator (or the author) who escapes Britain in order to travel around Italy and Southern Germany. From then onwards the book’s tone shifts. In some parts it’s a travelogue, in others it’s a biography on Stendhal and Franz Kafka. It shifts again into an appreciation of Pisanello’s art. There anecdotes, bits of trivia, pictures, and illustrations. In fact it is admirable on how Sebald takes the concept of a novel, turns it around and makes it so much fun. Throughout this book I felt like I was participating in some game. The novel itself is divided into four parts and they are all interlinked, albeit loosely. One main theme being a sense of vertigo both the narrator and the historical characters he describes suffer from. Could be a result of their society and times they live in??
However there were some sections (mostly the Southern Germany section) which I did find a little tedious but on the whole I cannot say that I hated this book. Whatever view you hold you definitely have to say that there is absolutely nothing like this.
This was the first time I’ve attempted W.G. Sebald and I have to admit I was disappointed.
At first I was amazed at this book. Within the first fifty pages or so you get a whole diatribe about the architectural teats of Antwerp’s train station then then further on in the novel there are further discussions about moths, Wittgenstein and other famous buildings around the world. More importantly though is the theme of memory which runs throughout the book.
The unnamed narrator bumps into a person called Jacques Austerlitz. Whenever they meet they indulge in intellectual discussions. As Austerlitz’s confidence in the narrator grows he starts to expose bits and pieces of his childhood. His past under Welsh parents, his discovery of his real parents – victims of Nazism, his mental breakdown and other bits and pieces of his past start to crop up. By the end of the novel we get a scattered but full biography of Austerlitz. Add that to the pictures strewn all over the novel, which give us more clues and you’ve got a first class book in your hands.
Probably it is so. After all there are tons of people who loved this novel but one thing made my reading of this book weary and that it is one long 415 page paragraph. Although i’ve been exposed to many literary techniques, this one exhausted me completely and, at times irritated me highly, which is a pity cause this is one hell of a plot.
What else can I say? I think there are other Sebald novels in this 1001 reading challenge so I hope I fare better next time.