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Austerlitz (2001)

by W. G. Sebald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: ゼーバルト・コレクション

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,346812,695 (4.15)189
"Austerlitz is the story of a man's search for the answer to his life's central riddle. A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, Jacques Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist minister and his wife who raise him. When he is a much older man, fleeting memories return to him, and obeying an instinct he only dimly understands, Austerlitz follows their trail back to the world he left behind a half century before. There, faced with the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe, he struggles to rescue his heritage from oblivion."--P. [2] of cover.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, jimctierney, sdprikrylova, Reani, katuncanny, FageisBeech, alex68
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)

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» See also 189 mentions

English (68)  Dutch (6)  German (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
I listened to this book and I might have been lucky that I didn't read it as I guess the structure of the book is one of no paragraphs and has sentences that go on and on. One is seven pages long. Listening to the story, the narrator tells you in first person of his friendships with Austerlitz (a boy who was part of kindertransport) and sometimes it is Austerlitz first person story. Austerlitz did not know his story and by finally searching back he discovers his ties and how WWII impacted his life and his family life. It is a story of search for identity. Also noted by others is that time is a theme and water represents time. Also there are three times that Noah's ark is mentioned. This is W. G. Sebald's last book he wrote and the first one that I've read by the author. ( )
  Kristelh | Jun 9, 2020 |
"Austerlitz" is a wonderful exploration of memory and also identity. Austerlitz, the character, relays his story to the narrator, pictures are frequent in the novel and the whole form of the book acts as a sort of historical document. Sebald chooses to ruminate many times on the nature of memory and the assaults of the past that frequently assail Austerlitz are examples of the lack of control and consistency an individual has in the present. The prose is lucid, although it meanders at times, and grand in the descriptions of trauma and Austerlitz's accounts of his episode to the narrator. The one issue I did have was with the character of Austerlitz. There's a degree of emotional despondency that doesn't really get resolved in a way that one can fully relate to the character more quizzically observe as a sort of emotional oddity or living ghost. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
Some books are such gifts. This novel is one. It's not for everyone. Most of my book club didn't enjoy reading it. You need to be very patient with it because it's written in the form of one seeming digression after another. The digressions are incredible though. Many of them have to do with the way history reveals itself in ways that range far beyond books--in buildings, in monuments, in personal memories we share with one another in conversation. I could say this novel changed the way I think about history. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
Absolutely breathtaking. The paragraphs are so long, you have to read them without interruption, and yet they were not difficult to follow, which is amazing. Of course the narrative structure, with the narrator telling the story of Austerlitz, but sometimes it feels like Austerlitz narrating the story directly to you. And the use of photographs makes it feel biographical when the story about Austerlitz is entirely fictional. ( )
  siok | Dec 1, 2019 |
Austerlitz is an odd, old-fashioned book. Its narrator encounters the title character. He then repeats the story Austerlitz tells, and in Austerlitz's own story, sometimes he tells the stories of others. So the entire narration is at least once and often twice-removed. I don't think there is any actual dialogue anywhere in the book. Just first person narrative. The paragraphs go on forever, and there is one famous sentence that takes up over 7 pages (apparently 9 in the original German). But despite these obstacles, the book is highly readable. Even when it ranges over time and distance again and again without a break, the narrative keeps its hold on you and makes you keep reading. You really don't want to put this book down. The black and white photographs interspersed throughout the text are an essential part of the experience, also. Sometimes they are clearly referred to in the text, sometimes not.

The story itself concern's Austerlitz's exploration of his own past, trying to track down what became of the parents who put him on a train from Czechoslovakia in 1939 when he is 4 years old to escape the coming Nazi invasion. He ends up in Wales, with a minister and his wife, who give him little love and no information about his true identity, which he only discovers as a teenager--or at least he discovers his real name. Only later does he face up to the task of discovering the truth behind his life. This comes well into the book, however. In the earlier sections Austerlitz speaks to the narrator about architecture, but as we will see, everything is related. Some reviews compare this book to the work of Borges, whom Sebald admired, and in the way it mixes fact and history into a work of fiction, that is true enough, but this novel doesn't contain the sense of the fantastic that much of Borges' work does. Even the dreams and visions that plague Austerlitz, narrated in great detail, are still firmly grounded in reality.

It is wonderful to see old memories awakening in Austerlitz as he visits Prague and other places, and as he learns more, he begins to understand some of his own past behavior and period of depression. As an academic, he struggles through a long work in German to better understand the Theresienstadt ghetto/concentration where his mother was sent. But while the Holocaust is at the center of the book, it isn't the main focus in my opinion. Rather, it is a book about how the past affects us in ways we may not even understand. In that sense, the book is more Faulknerian than Borgesian. ("The past is never dead. ... Actually, it's not even past.") Austerlitz, like the rest of us, will never find all the answers he seeks. But Sebald has brought this fragile, complicated character to life and given us a glimpse of real and psychological horrors that cannot--and must not--be forgotten. ( )
  datrappert | Jul 24, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (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
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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.
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.
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Legacy Library: W. G. Sebald

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