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At first "The Emigrants" appears simply to document the lives of four Jewish emigres in the twentieth century. But gradually, as Sebald's precise, almost dreamlike prose begins to draw their stories, the four narrations merge into one overwhelming evocation of exile and loss. Written with a bone-dry sense of humour and a fascination with the oddness of existence "The Emigrants" is highly original in its heady mix of fact, memory and fiction and photographs.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099448884
ISBN-10: 0099448882
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 19mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 7-Nov-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Just before his tragic death in a car crash in December 2001, aged only 57, German-born writer W G Sebald gave a rare interview at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. During this final public appearance, he spoke of his frustration at the refusal of his countrymen to discuss, or even acknowledge, the terrible events that unfolded before his birth in 1944. This 'conspiracy of silence' shaped not only his childhood, but also his entire literary output. The Emigrants, first published in Germany in 1993 and now reissued by Vintage, typifies Sebald's oblique approach to the problem, which became a major preoccupation for him during his 20s. The book explores the lives of four Jewish men, each exiled from his homeland, and each suffering the accompanying sense of loss and desolation. Sebald paints a compassionate and moving portrait of these men in four self-contained sections that combine to form a sober, thought-provoking whole. A sense of foreboding overshadows each new narrative, a foreboding that is fully justified as events move inexorably towards a tragic conclusion. Each man could easily have been the subject of an entire book; instead, we are only offered a tantalizingly brief glimpse of them. But Sebald's elegant and dignified prose, with its detailed and poetic descriptions, interspersed with occasional flashes of humour, carries the book through. Sebald's writing was always combined with a passion for photographs, and The Emigrants is peppered with black-and-white images, carefully selected and uncaptioned, their relevance obvious from the surrounding text. As a literary device, it works well. Sebald's concerns about the futility of war, and the far-reaching consequences that can spread across generations, have resulted in a book that is a salutary lesson for us all. It is simple, stylish and utterly compelling. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - W. G. Sebald

W. G. Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgau, in the Bavarian Alps, in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland and Manchester. In 1966 he took up a position as an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester, settling permanently in England in 1970. He was professor of Modern German Literature at the University of East Anglia, and is the author of The Emigrants which won the Berlin Literature Prize, the Literatur Nord Prize and the Johannes Bobrowski Medal, The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. W. G. Sebald died in 2001.

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