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After Nature

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  39 reviews
After Nature, W. G. Sebald’s first literary work, now translated into English by Michael Hamburger, explores the lives of three men connected by their restless questioning of humankind’s place in the natural world. From the efforts of each, “an order arises, in places beautiful and comforting, though more cruel, too, than the previous state of ignorance.” The first figure ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Random House (first published 1988)
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I read this in translation,
so I can't say for certain
maybe there is some metric by which it is poetry.
Maybe the lines are not merely
broken because Sebald felt like it.
Perhaps in German this is not prosaic --
by which I am not calling Sebald's writing
by any means quotidian but
I saw no reason it could not be
arranged in full text lines.
It would sound just the same,
it would be easier to follow,
it would save space and the lives of trees.
Did the trees do something to you,
morbid walker of Suffolk,
M. Sarki
If you enter the reading of this book as prose, and focus on not noticing the format, and just take in the words, it becomes obvious rather fast that this is a well-written piece of literature. I began by imagining all the words as verse collected instead into paragraphs, and by the last third it did not matter any longer that the text looked like poetry. I suppose this collection was called poetry because it was so lyrical and beautiful. Max Sebald, or another, shaping these words into "blank v ...more
I was curious to read this not only because I love Sebald but also to see how his poems differed from the prose. Truth is, from my perspective, not a whole lot (other than formally), which ain't a bad thing. 'After Nature' is made up of three long poems, each focusing on a different person (a 15th C painter, an 18th C botanist, and lastly a present day Sebaldian speaker) and his life and growing understanding of and relationship to the world and nature. Oh, yeah, and it's ruminative, sad, and be ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
The thing with blank verse is that you can mentally string it back into prose and it often reads equally well either way.

The thing with Sebald's prose is that it always seemed poetic to me, in a forlorn, elegiac way.

The thing here, in the three blank-verse poem/essays that constitute 'After Nature' is the music imposed by the line-breaks, the halting rhythms that emerge, the occasional breaks from the controlled if gloomy, peripatetic Sebaldian tone into something more abstract and fraught.

Ah, Sebald. After a short hike this morning, with some colleagues and students, the afternoon drifts toward evening. What better, than the book length series of three poems, After Nature. And this is the true Sebald. This belongs on the shelf alongside The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, and Austerlitz.

Better still to realize, only now, that two years ago while seeking to make the most of my fading time in Freiburg, on a train and bus trip to Colmar, France, and only entering the museum at Unter
Guillermo Jiménez
Mientras uno se desgasta en la oficina. Pensando en cómo resolver situaciones nimias y percatándose de cómo la educación en las universidades están creando eunucos incapaces de concebir cualquier maldita idea fértil: la vida que es una caprichosa nos arrebata a un maestro del lenguaje, de la cadencia que arrulla y envuelve y nos hace creer en un mundo mejor posible.

Son palabras, una detrás de otra; son luces y oscuridades sobre paisajes conocidos o nuevos, que nos pueden parecer bucólicos o arri
Ben Loory
a slim 3-parter written early but published posthumously; the first two parts are beautiful, the third (the autobiographical section) less so. w.g. sebald is the best writer in the world, even though he is dead.

this, from the second section, about the bering expedition into the arctic:


Unending flights
of screeching birds, which skimmed
low over the water,
from afar resembled
drifting islands. Whales
rotated around the ship, emitting
water-spouts high into the air
in all direction of the compass.
This book is so beautiful. It's an early work, written in verse in three parts. The first part reflects on the life and work of the late medieval painter Matthias Grunewald (most famous for the
Isenheim Altarpiece), the second on the eighteenth-century naturalist Georg Wilhelm Stellar, who traveled with Vitus Bering, and the last on moments from the author's life. The first two sections are stunning. The third section felt more disjointed and I wasn't sure where it was going. All the same, five
Beautiful poetry. Of the three poems in this book, the last two - a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood, and a narrative of the naturalist Steller's journey across Siberia are particularly haunting. Sebald weaves photography into the narrative of these poems, which has an unexpectedly powerful effect. He does the same in the Emigrants, which is also semi-autobiographical and also a very wonderful novel.
Read W.G. Sebald.
'Del natural', de W. G. Sebald, no es una novela propiamente dicha, sino que es un poema en prosa. En este librito (apenas 100 páginas), Sebald plasma su amor a la Naturaleza (con mayúsculas) utilizando el lenguaje y sus conocimientos como nadie.

Esta obra está dividida en tres partes: la primera dedicada al pintor Grünewald, prácticamente un desconocido, que retrataba sobre todo santos, crucifixiones, eclipses... En la segunda parte nos habla del botánico Steller, que acompañó a Behring en una e
Courtney Johnston
Sebald's 'After Nature' had strong overtones of my of my favourite A.S. Byatt novel's, 'The Biographer's Tale'. Like Byatt, Sebald threads his way through three lives; the 16th century German painter Matthias Grunewald, the 18th century explorer/scientist Georg Wilhelm Steller, and a contemporary narrator who stands in for Sebald himself, a German in England in the 20th century.

Through the three stories, Sebald tackles intertwined themes of memory, culture, history, migration in both straightfor
The only poem which resonated with me was "And if I remain by the outermost sea", partly because of dealing with two elderly women's health issues this week.

While the people he writes about are a curious choice, the form of poetry doesn’t seem to be anything special to convey extra than the words of biography. Perhaps this is the translation, but I doubt it. Mostly it is about facts rather than feel. It is distant in time and place. I don’t get anything extra, except an occasional turn of phras
David Schaafsma
Three stories, one of his own, woven in Sebald's unmistakably careful and almost formal language; his first published work, I think? Poetry, as good as his prose. Amazing interwoven reflections on nature, history, colonialism, anti-Semitism, modernism, the drive to "conquer" or "tame" nature (even human nature) and its sometimes (and increasingly?) devastating effects. Haunting work by a master. Accessible, because, in spite of (or for me, because of) sort of byzantinely ornamental sentences, th ...more
It took me some time to get into the style of this work, but once I did I was enraptured with the philosophical extrapolations made of these three vastly different lives. In my opinion, the last two pieces gleamed and I struggled to finish the first part but that is just a personal preference and likely due to the prevalent use of dates and places, which I tend to dislike.
In this little but great and even ambitious book Sebald reveals a bit of everything that will show up in all his later work. Facts turn into imagination, prose into poetry, and observation into writing.

For it is hard to discover
the winged vertebrates of prehistory
embedded in tablets of slate.
But if I see before me
the nervature of past life
in one image, I always think
that this has something to do
with truth. Our brains, after all,
are always at work on some quivers
of self-organisation, however f
This is only my second Sebald book, and it has only strengthened my abiding love of his work. I can easily get cranky about the current trend to research a subject, and then pretend some degree of research can mean expertise, and so possession of that subject. My crankiness with these poems is that the predominant tone of the piece is the poet's pride rather than some remarkableness about the subject.

It feels as though Sebald fully possesses whatever he needs to know about his subject, not to pr
I feel so stupid only giving this book 2 stars, and the fault is, I'm sure, entirely mine. I just couldn't really figure it out until the last section/poem which finally grabbed me and was quite moving. It's not that the writing was bad, it was just I couldn't figure it out, really. The first section seemed the most opaque, with the second section a bit more transparent and the last section was nearly comprehensible. Perhaps that is because it was more autobiographical? Maybe it was 'lost in tra ...more
After Nature creeps up on the reader, beginning like a distant rumble and building line upon line into a thundering roar. In the book's final movement, the noise falls away, signifying a silence louder than any sound, asking questions of the questioner - until there seems to be nothing - not even an ending.

Or rather, in the end Sebald asks something of Nothingness with wholehearted expectations of receiving an answer.

Let it be said. Let it be written. I refuse to apologize for this hyperbolic r
Oct 05, 2014 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mark by: Sara Q
This is divided into three main sections, entitled: ...As the Snow on the Alps, And If I Remained by the Outermost Sea, and, Dark Night Sallies Forth. The 1st is about Matthias Grünewald, a German Renaissance painter. The 2nd is about Georg Wilhelm Steller, a botanist-explorer of the Enlightenment. The last is about the author himself.

This was OK but it assumes a lot of knowledge of all of these men to fully appreciate, much less understand, the poems.

After reading it I found this essay, primari
This long poem is written in three sections: one about a medieval German painter, Matthias Grunewald, little of whose work survives and whose very identity is unclear; one about Georg Steller, a naturalist who travelled on an expedition to the Artic/Alaska with Bering (of the Bering Strait); and the last about the narrator of the poem, a German living in England. Interesting to learn about Grunewald and Steller, but the last section was the strongest. It was only there I caught glimpses of the a ...more
How marvellous is the treasure trove of W G Sebald's mind.
I normally don't read poetry. I just can't get into it. As W.G. Sebald is one of my favourite authors and I seem to be in a Sebaldian phase, I wanted to try this nonetheless. It is written in blank verse (one of the reviewer said) so it can be read as rhythmisized prose which made it easier for me to get into and subsequently discover the poetic properties.
Very interested in the cultural history side so looked up the Isenheimer Altar and learned about Grünewald and Steller.
The book consists of three long poems that are thematically related. The strongest is the first, an extended ekphrastic poem on a German artist named Matthew Grunewald. The third section takes up themes of wandering that are familiar from Sebald's novels. Though the poems have some striking images, you can tell that his real interests are in narrative and character. The novels of his that I have read are much stronger than this poetry collection.
Brilliant little collection if essays.
After nature is only barely a set of poems-- it's really more of a set of abstract prose pieces that were too abstract to be sold as "prose," so Sebald said eff this an added line breaks. I remember pulling the same move to placate my high school creative writing teacher.

Otherwise, it's more excellent Sebald being excellent and Sebaldish. Frozen seas. The Alps. Destruction. Medieval art. German civilization. You get it.
I thought Sebald's poetry would the kind that uses really long lines that are in paragraph form but everyone still calls them poems. Actually they're surprisingly short and broken up (a little too much?). And historically fixated, as usual.
Mostly it was just nice to be reading Sebald again, of course I've read better poems but they were by other people that I don't care about as much.
the choice of form here (as poetry) seems somewhat arbitrary. the writing is all clarity, as is usual with sebald, but felt no different from his prose...only that he inserted random line breaks throughout. not sure why this is. funny thing is, his prose seems more like poetry than this does. trying to write as poetry pulled the rug out under.
Not as much of a fan of Sebald's poetry as I am his prose. His poetry is much more measured and almost purposefully melancholy, it loses a lot of its factual bent. But the image of the man climbing out of his portrait frame is at once spooky and cerebral.
John A
This is Sebald's first book, written in blank verse, but it already shows his characteristic themes and melancholy tone.
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Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald was a German writer and academic. His works are largely concerned with the themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay (of civilizations, traditions or physical objects). They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German peopl ...more
More about W.G. Sebald...
Austerlitz The Rings of Saturn The Emigrants Vertigo On the Natural History of Destruction

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