HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Check out the Valentine’s Day Heart Hunt!
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
Loading...

Austerlitz (2001)

by W. G. Sebald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,067732,721 (4.18)178
Recently added bygturkington, private library, capauer, GurneyStreet, bhowell, huntingsnarks, jpries44
Legacy LibrariesLeslie Scalapino
  1. 00
    Heshel's kingdom by Dan Jacobson (perodicticus)
    perodicticus: Sebald mentions Jacobson's book in the final pages of Austerlitz, and it's well worth a read.
  2. 00
    Götz and Meyer by David Albahari (DieFledermaus)
  3. 00
    Garden, Ashes by Danilo Kiš (DieFledermaus)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 178 mentions

English (62)  Dutch (5)  German (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
This is the second time I’ve read this novel; the first time was soon after its publication in rh U.S. The book haunted me for reasons I couldn’t articulate. So, I thought it would be a good choice for my book club under the theme of “Memory." It proved to be the most controversial book in my three years of moderating this group.

The unnamed narrator is a man without a country, wandering through Europe studying architecture. In a railway station, he makes an acquaintance with a man who introduces himself as Austerlitz.

Sebald does away with plot, characterization, dialogue, and events leading to other events. What we get is the unmediated expression of a pure and seemingly disembodied voice.
Austerlitz is on a quest to find out who he is. What he recounts to the narrator is a reconstructive odyssey in search of himself. The two men encounter each other, seemingly by coincidence, again and again in their respective travels, always discussing architecture and history, but sharing nothing of their personal lives until 1996 when their conversation finally turns to Austerlitz’s life history.

The incredible power of this book is how Sebald tells the story and layers the subtext to a point that it requires re-reading with intense attention to every detail. Sebald combats the erasure of history on the collective level as well as the individual. What the Nazis take from Austerlitz is not his life or property but his essential personhood. The traumatic effects of separation are not felt by Austerlitz until the distractions of study and career are cleared away, exposing the emptiness of his disconnected, dislocated existence.

The photographs, unannotated throughout, are part of what makes this novel so powerful and haunting, perhaps because photographs are so evocative and unaffected by the passage of time—except for the fading. The photos give us the impression of a memoir, but some of them have no connection to the prose, yet we, as the reader, are always looking for the pattern. The Nocturama and its accompanying photos of the monkey, the owl, Wittgenstein, and another man set the tone for the conceit of fake realities, which include the false reality of Austerlitz’s own childhood, the horrific distortion of reality by the Nazis, and the false universe of the Holocaust. Sebald says, “This recourse to peripherality (the photographs) arises partly as a narrative strategy to cope with the inherent unrepresentability of that which occurred in the Nazi concentration camps.”

Central to understanding this novel is the reader's understanding that Sebald is German but not Jewish. He is the narrator; he is not Austerlitz. He writes as he does to cope with the “conspiracy of silence” that surrounded him growing up in Germany. His father worked in the Nazi machine. Sebald’s conviction: “This is not so much a way of understanding the Holocaust, so much as it is a way of making us think about how we can’t understand the Holocaust.” This book is a combination of memoir, fiction, travelogue, history, and biography. ( )
  ucla70 | Jan 30, 2019 |
Synopsis: Austerlitz is sitting a school exam when his teacher informs him of his formal identity which must be used for exam purposes. It is then he learns that he was transported as a child in order to evade the war.

As an adult, Austerlitz became fixated with architecture and the narrator (who remains unnamed throughout) decides to retrace his past.

My Opinion: The first 100 pages are a little bit confusing, but once you learn who is who and what is happening, the story becomes easier to read. I was about ready to give up on this book as I couldn't get into it despite its positive reviews online. The unraveling of the past doesn't really begin until about 200 pages in; the first 200 pages are focused on Austerlitz in the present day and his interest in architecture.

There is a lot of symbolism throughout with the architecture and animals, however I found myself skim reading a significant portion of the book. Additionally, there are no chapters which makes the passing of time slightly confusing and disjointed as a reader.

A very eery read. From reading other reviews I can infer that other people took more out of this than what I did. I think had the discovering-of-the-past unfolded earlier on, the descriptive language would have intrigued me slightly more than it did. ( )
  Moniica | Jan 2, 2019 |
A man finds that he is the child of Holocaust victims instead of a Welsh family, and searches for his true identity.
  JRCornell | Dec 8, 2018 |
I simply no longer have patience to stay with any book once it becomes clear that it will not grab nor sustain my attention. Too many good prospects on the TBR. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Nov 27, 2018 |
MY FULL REVIEW


“No one can explain exactly what happens within us when the doors behind which our childhood terrors lurk are flung open.”
― W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

Turning the pages of the novel Austerlitz makes for one powerful, emotionally wrenching experience. Here's what esteemed critic Michiko Kakutani wrote as part of her New York Times review: "We are transported to a memoryscape - a twilight, fogbound world of half-remembered images and ghosts that is reminiscent at once of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, Kafka's troubling fables of guilt and apprehension and, of course, Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.''

With his lyrical, poetic language, German born W. G. Sebold reminds me of the Nobel prize winning French author Patrick Modiano. Mr. Sebold blends fact and fiction in his tale of an unnamed narrator meeting and befriending a historian of European architecture by the name of Jacques Austerlitz. Also included are more than six dozen photographs along with a number of illustrations and charts.

The more we come to know Austerlitz in his recounting of his past, how he arrived in Britain in 1939 as a refugee, age four, from Nazi infested Czechoslovakia, how he was adopted and raised by an older Welsh minister and his wife, how, as an adult, he returned to Prague and located a close friend of his vanished mother and father, how he then further traced the fate of his parents, the more our hearts open not only to Austerlitz and his family but all the many men and women and children who suffered the brutality and madness of the Nazis.

I suspect one reason Mr. Sebold included the many black and white photographs as part of his novel goes back to what art critic Robert Hughes noted about the Holocaust: photography captured the ghastliness of the atrocities in a way other forms of art could not. In an attempt to retain the tone of this deeply moving literary work, I have included black and white photographs of my own choosing to accompany direct quotes from the novel.


"It was only by following the course time prescribed that we could hasten through the gigantic spaces separating us from each other. And indeed, said Austerlitz after a while, to this day there is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in traveling, which is why whenever we come home from elsewhere we never feel quite sure if we have really been abroad."



"As it was, I recognized him by the rucksack of his, and for the first time in as far back as I can remember I recollected myself as a small child, at the moment when I realized that it must have been to this same waiting room I had come on my arrival in England over half a century ago."



"After ninety seconds in which to defend yourself to a judge you could be condemned to death for a trifle, some offense barely worth mentioning, the merest contravention of the regulations in force, and then you would be hanged immediately in the execution room next to the law court, where there was an iron rail running along the ceiling down where the lifeless bodies where pushed a little further as required."



"Most of them were silent, some wept quietly, but outbursts of despair, loud shouting and fits of frenzied rage were not uncommon."



“The darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power or memory is never heard, never described or passed on.”



"The longer I think about it the more it seems to me that we who are still alive are unreal in the eyes of the dead, that only occasionally, in certain lights and atmospheric conditions, do we appear in their field of vision.” ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
He is one of the most gripping writers imaginable. It's not the story so much that takes hold of the reader: it's the descriptions and the meditations, which can be hallucinatory in their effect. This is true of all his books, but in Austerlitz the proportion of rumination and evocation to narrative is larger than ever.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Gabriele Annan (pay site) (Nov 1, 2001)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sebald, W. G.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charvát, RadovanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hengel, Ria vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krüger, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vigliani, AdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
In the second half of the 1960s I traveled repeatedly from England to Belgium, partly for study purposes, partly for other reasons which were never entirely clear to me, staying sometimes for just one or two days, sometimes for several weeks.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Don't combine this title with Young Austerlitz which is merely an extract of the complete work.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375756566, Paperback)

If the mark of a great novel is that it creates its own world, drawing in the reader with its distinctive rhythms and reverberations, then W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz may be the first great novel of the new century. An unnamed narrator, resting in a waiting room of the Antwerp rail station in the late 1960s, strikes up a conversation with a student of architecture named Austerlitz, about whom he knows almost nothing. Over the next several years, the narrator often runs into his odd, engaging acquaintance by chance on his travels, until finally, after a gap of two decades, Austerlitz decides to tell the narrator the story of his life and of his search for his origins in wartime Europe. Slow and meditative, relying on the cumulative effect of its sedate, musical prose and its dark subject matter (illuminated here and there with hope), Sebald's novel doesn't overturn the conventions of fiction, but transcends them. It is a love story to history and vanished beauty. Don't let the slow beginning turn you away. Austerlitz takes its time getting off the ground, but is well worth seeing in flight. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:27 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Over thirty years, in the course of conversations that take place across Europe, a man named Jacques Austerlitz tells a nameless companion of his ongoing struggle with the riddle of his identity. A small child when he immigrates alone to England in the summer of 1939, Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh couple who raise him, and he strains to orient himself in a world whose natural reference points have been obliterated. When he is a much older man, fleeting childhood memories return to him, and he obeys an instinct he only dimly understands and follows their trail back to the vanished world he left behind a half century before, the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe.--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

Legacy Library: W. G. Sebald

W. G. Sebald has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

See W. G. Sebald's legacy profile.

See W. G. Sebald's author page.

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.18)
0.5 2
1 9
1.5 2
2 18
2.5 11
3 69
3.5 36
4 180
4.5 39
5 275

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 132,496,741 books! | Top bar: Always visible