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After Nature

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  591 Ratings  ·  53 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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Jan 08, 2015 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
May 21, 2013 M. Sarki rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013, poetry
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
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.

Ben Loory
Aug 06, 2008 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
I couldn't get into this book at all, despite the glowing recommendation in Patti Smith's book M Train. I'm intrigued that since I love two particular books as all-time favorites, that one by Smith, and Sebald's later, famous The Rings of Saturn, I was unimpressed by After Nature.

After Nature is not really poetry, even though it is presented as such on the page. The lines are broken in seemingly arbitrary places, and the reader will quickly adapt to reading it as prose. And quickly it goes, too,
Mar 18, 2016 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2012
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
Feb 02, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Pistelli
Given my mild ambivalence about Sebald, I thought I would make this small book, the author's first, my next destination on the gray-toned walking tour of European ruin that is the Sebaldian oeuvre. I think of Sebald's gift as essentially lyric, in the sense that the lyric poet projects his subjectivity onto the world and that his composition is accordingly of one tone and mood—the lyric poet "turns his back on the audience," writes Frye; similarly, Lukács claims that "the language of the absolut ...more
Jan 15, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read W.G. Sebald.
B. Mason
Jan 10, 2017 B. Mason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sebald's first book, published posthumously, is a short and beautiful three-part narrative about a German painter, an exploring who sailed with Bering, and a version of Sebald himself (very Sebald). The text is lineated like poetry but the prose reads like his later work. There is less density to After Nature than Sebald's later novels, but the text still provokes wonder through the arresting use of significant detail and distillation of language.
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
'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
Jun 28, 2013 S'hi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, poetry
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
Feb 21, 2016 Taube rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this upon the glowing recommendation of Patti Smith who endorses Sebald's long prose poem in her recent memoir, M Train, by exclaiming: "What a drug this little book is; to imbibe it is to find oneself presuming his process. I read and feel that same compulsion; the desire to possess what he has written, which can only be subdued by writing something myself. It is not mere envy but a delusional quickening in the blood." And so I came to my reading of After Nature/Nach der Natur with rather ...more
Feb 13, 2011 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nov 06, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Manuel Sanchez
Mar 04, 2016 Manuel Sanchez rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
This collection holds three narrative poems, two of which are biographical of remote and seemingly obscure, if not forgotten figures. They are the medieval German painter, Matthias Grunewald, and German botanist George Steller. The third figure is himself, the author.

Here in an evil state of erosion
and desolation the heritage of ruining
of life that in the end will consume
even the stones has been depicted.

The book is a projection of the authors melancholic world view, which focuses on how "natura
Oct 05, 2014 Mark rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2010 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
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.
Adrijana Vidić
Mar 20, 2016 Adrijana Vidić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
(...) Protjerani
đavo, kojega je Cirijak, ne samo zato
što prostor je tijesan, nego i kao
simbol, visoko uzdigao,
žensko je biće
i potječe, kako to grizaj
Grünewaldov u frankfurtskom Städelu
snažno prikazuje, iz padavičave kćeri
Dioklecijanove, opsjednute princeze
Artemije, a Cirijak je, pokraj kojega
kleči, manipulom svojega ruha
poput psa na kratkoj uzici drži.
Nad njih se nadvija granje
bogato smokvom, a jedan su
plod posve izjeli kukci.
Jul 19, 2007 Russ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, translation
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.
Karla Jasso
Dec 28, 2015 Karla Jasso rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: before-bed
No es "Austerlitz", pero "After Nature" -decía un cronista- se lee, según se prefiera, casi como una deducción demasiado tardía de un detective o una confesión anticipada del asesino antes del crimen. Ambas motivaciones —la de buscar huellas digitales en el mango de un cuchillo o la de clavarlo hasta el mango— están marcadas por una obsesión con los efectos del pasado sobre el presente y la admisión casi orgullosa de que "los muertos siempre me han interesado más que los vivos".
Sep 11, 2010 Valie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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
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