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4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,132 Ratings  ·  680 Reviews
WG Sebald's Austerlitz has something of the fractured narrative and wanderlust of his novels The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn, and continues to develop their obsession with history, loss and memory--or more precisely in this case, forgetting. In the decade since the original German publication of Vertigo, Sebald has established himself as indisputably one of Europe's ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 4th 2002 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 2001)
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Best German/Austrian Literature
38th out of 600 books — 699 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 12, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the kinds of reviews to write, the ecstatically enthusiastic ones are the worst, I think. No matter how much you try to pepper your review with big words and thoughtful commentary, you inevitably end up sounding like a gum-chomping tween girl squealing the paint off the walls about some boy band that looks like it should be directed to a hormone therapy ward.

Being openly enthusiastic about virtually anything can be tough—because it makes you vulnerable. It's like this: in a moment of wea
Violet wells
Jan 28, 2016 Violet wells rated it really liked it
Shelves: holocaust
There’s something reminiscent of an archaeological dig about Austerlitz – the quest to piece back together a missing life by sifting through layers of the past. The finds often appearing random and impenetrable until eventually a cypher is discovered.

Austerlitz reads like the autobiography of an academic, recounted in instalments to the stranger he repeatedly meets in various locations, who has lived a hermetic and fruitless life. You’re never quite sure if you’re reading biography or fiction,
Dec 20, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing
”It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last… And might it not be, continued Austerlitz, that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for the most part extinguished, and must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?”

I have trouble writing about Sebald. I read Th
Austerlitz fascinated me, but I couldn't say I loved it. Reading this book gave me the feeling of being jet-lagged somewhere in a strange city at three o'clock in the morning, having strange revelations that would seem bizarre in the daylight. Not a feeling I dislike, by any means. Sebald's attempts to find a prose style to match his explorations of memory and loss are beautiful and haunting, but for me at least the effect was more soporific than exhilarating. Maybe ‘hypnotic’ is a better word. ...more
John David
Many reviewers have cited the difficulty of the prose in “Austeritz,” but I find this difficult to comprehend. Have they never read Proust? Joyce? Faulkner? Once one has survived these trials by fire, Sebald’s prose is comparatively accessible. Still others have claimed that this is a “Holocaust novel,” and I find this equally perplexing. Certainly, while Austerlitz’s childhood experience of being sent to England via Kindertransport away from his parents forms a locus for what little narrative d ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 18, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tata J, Joseph
Recommended to K.D. by: 501, 1001, The Millions
The saddest book that I've read so far.

Imagine that you, at the age of 4, were separated from your parents during the war and you were raised by people who you thought were your real parents. Then towards your midlife, you knew that your biological parents were tortured and killed mercilessly but you did not have any concrete information about them except some vague assumptions? And that there were these scenes from that period that reside in the recesses of your mind but could not fully figure
Nov 15, 2015 orsodimondo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tedesca
Di fronte a pagine monolitiche, prive di interruzioni e a capo, con periodi lunghi, ricerca del dettaglio e frequenti digressioni, ci si può perdere: ma non qui.
Le fotografie, bellissime, spezzano la lettura: e più ci si avvicina alla fine e più sembra che aumentino e compaiano anche le prime interruzioni, i primi spazi bianchi: proprio quando il libro sta per finire, e io non lo volevo affatto lasciare, volevo che continuasse, senza sosta.
C’è ancora tanta memoria del
Quem: um homem à procura da sua identidade
Quando: Segunda Guerra Mundial e anos posteriores
Onde (Quem): a Europa e os lugares, onde as recordações ficaram cativas à espera que a memória as liberte
A forma: monólogo ilustrado por fotografias
O conteúdo: a Memória o Tempo

O quê: uma obra-prima!

Há mais de uma semana que ando a tentar dizer algo sobre este livro, e qualquer texto que escrevo me parece oco e tolo. Quanto mais penso, mais grandioso me parece e mais me inibe. Por isso, fica aquela "coisa"
Aug 08, 2010 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-german, favourites
Not so much a narrative as a book length meditation on memory in all its forms, personal, cultural, collective. Sentences that are like whole landscapes, images that linger and resonate, a main character that will haunt me for weeks to come. This is one that lives up to all the praise it has garnered. Idiosyncratic, impressive and deeply unsettling.
Oct 17, 2015 André rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O tema que perpassa todo o livro Austerlitz é a memória. Ou, mais precisamente, a reconstrução da mesma. Memória que, por forças desconhecidas, o tempo encerra e enceta e, juntamente com a imaginação, torna o homem naquilo que ele é. Numa digressão melancólica, reflexiva e analítica vamos à descoberta da vida de um homem. Nós somos o narrador, essa figura fantasmagórica, que se senta com Jacques Austerlitz e fica a ouvir a sua história. Uma história que o próprio tenta ainda compreender.

João Carlos
Dec 28, 2014 João Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2014, favorites, 2014best
Vou começar pelo fim. O fim trágico de W. G. Sebald, escritor alemão nascido em 1944 e falecido em 14 de Dezembro de 2001, vítima de um acidente de automóvel, quando se despistou colidindo com um camião, em Norfolk, Reino Unido, onde vivia. A sua filha Anna, a outra ocupante da viatura, de apenas quatro anos sobreviveu a este dramático acidente rodoviário. Seis meses mais tarde a autópsia revela que Sebald sofrera um aneurisma cerebral como causa da sua morte.
“Austerlitz” fora publicado em 6 de
M. Sarki

I love the way Max Sebald writes. His language is rich and warm, quite sophisticated, but still accessible. I religiously claim W.G. Sebald as the master of all dream-state authorship. I have never read anyone so gifted at lulling one to sleep and slowly, unhurriedly, in some leisurely way, unsuspectingly knocking our heads off at the very same time. My problem with Austerlitz is that it just never happened for me. And this is the first time Sebald ever fa
Friederike Knabe
Mar 02, 2015 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-lit
This has been a totally absorbing reread of this extraordinary and deeply reflective story on identity, memory and the loss of roots and family. It is without doubt one of those books that should be read more than once. Brilliantly translated by Anthea Bell, it is an intellectual feat and an emotional journey in either language. I have worked with it in both. Enriched by black/white photos, we find ourselves constantly moving between fact and fiction, at times in both at the same time.
MJ Nicholls
Aug 26, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it liked it
More meandering and glorious Sebaldian prose, with sentences callipered from 18thC German texts and respooled into post-war Wales, France and Germany, with one man’s attempt to comprehend the horrors of the Theresienstadt workcamp and—obliquely—the Holocaust. This novel is a longer, more distancing work than The Emigrants or Vertigo, both chopped into four chapters and separate narrative threads.

The framing device here is unusual, with the narrator (Sebald?) quoting long screeds of dialogue fro
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
While I think I liked 'The Rings of Saturn and 'The Emigrants' slightly better, Austerlitz is still a somber, stunning meditation on memory, loss and erasure. Sebald's writing has an incredibly deft touch, other authors would just bludgeon you over the head with the horrors of European destruction, but his exploration of forgotten or overlooked spaces and marginal lives feels so much 'realer' somehow than a more traditional focus on major monolithic events and persons. I've been to several of th ...more
Dec 24, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Why the hell did I decide to read Holocaust fiction on Christmas Eve? Granted, this was a breathtaking book, but still.

Page long sentences, reflections on memory, the past, architecture, ruins, history, atrocity, etc., etc. It's really good. Don't take my word for it with this review and just read it. Although preferably in a time when you can afford to be melancholy and brooding.
Nov 15, 2015 Ingrid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scelto quasi per caso, si è rivelata una lettura ostica, nella prima parte, incantevole dalla metà in poi, eccezionale il ricordo e il sapore che ne rimane. Quando ho chiuso il libro mi sono resa conto di aver letto un piccolo grande capolavoro, non so se conosciuto ai più. Avevo letto da qualche parte che Sebald è "scrittore autunnale", un po' umbratile, e in effetti è un romanzo che mi ha letteralmente spiazzato per cotanta profondità.
La storia è molto semplice e lineare: Jacques Austerlitz è
Nov 07, 2015 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Απερίφραστα πια ο Μαξ Ζεμπαλντ μιλάει για το Ολοκαύτωμα μέσω της διηγησης της ζωής του Άουστερλιτς, του ξεριζωμού του, τη χαμένη και ξανακερδισμένη μνήμη. Διηγήσεις εγκιβωτισμένες η μια μέσα στην άλλη, διαδρομές απο την Ουαλία στην Πράγα, απο το Παρίσι στη Νυρεμβέργη, από το Λονδίνο στη Γερμανία κοκ. Και οτ θέμα πάλι η μνήμη, ο ξεριζωμός και, πολύ πιο έντονα απο τα άλλα βιβλία του, ο χρόνος. Με αρκετό φωτογραφικό υλικό και εδώ να φωτίζει λεπτομέρειες της διήγησης, με μια ιστορία απο μόνη της εντ ...more
Josh Friedlander
In his seminal work of Jewish historiography, Zachor, Professor Yosef Chaim Yerushalmi differentiates between the concepts of history and memory, explaining how the Jewish tradition, while never developing the field of history recognisable to the Greeks via Herodotus and Thucydides, instead possessed the concept of memory, which entails the transformation of a historical event into a constantly present signifier, something like a societal tattoo, through means of rituals and recital of texts. To ...more
Robert Ronsson
Jun 03, 2009 Robert Ronsson rated it did not like it
When I told a mate, who is a fine man and whose opinion I respect, that I found Sebald's The Rings of Saturn difficult, he said, 'Read Austerlitz, you cantankerous old git. It's even better than Rings. Austerlitz is his Meisterwerk.' So I paid good money and started to read.

I reached page 218 before giving up. (I joked to my mate that this was halfway through the first paragraph but actually there may have been a few paragraph breaks up to this point.) Here is the sentence that did it for me. I
Emilian Kasemi
Aug 20, 2014 Emilian Kasemi rated it really liked it

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river.
- Jorge Luis Borges

"Time, said Austerlitz in the observation room in Greenwich, was by far the most artificial of all our inventions, and in being bound to the planet turning on its own axis was no less arbitrary than would be, say, a calculation based on the growth of trees or the duration required for a piece of limestone to disintegrate, quite apart from the fact that the solar day which we take as o
Jan 12, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to describe how beautiful Sebald's prose is. The sinuous sentences careered effortlessly down the page. Much credit must be given to the translators--I couldn't believe I was reading something that was originally written in German. The juxtaposition of history, architecture, and photography combined with Proustian ruminations on time and existence were transporting and really created those moments of poetic ecstasy that keep people reading Literature with a capital L. My one reservatio ...more
This was the last of Sebald’s four novel/nonfiction/who knows books that I hadn’t read. All of the familiar Sebald themes were present: the fluid nature of memory, Holocaust, architecture, anxiety, disenchantment, the dislocation of “home,” etc. etc. etc. If you are fascinated by these things and don’t especially care about plot, you will like Sebald.

I think these things are fascinating—so fascinating that I typically write about them myself. In fact, Sebald has written everything that I want to
Disse Austerlitz, disse Sebald.

Austerlitz è un viaggio doloroso e immaginifico nei meandri della memoria - claustrofobico, agorafobico, labirintico - ma è anche un viaggio attraverso l'Europa, da Anversa a Londra, da Parigi a Praga, un viaggio fisico e spirituale apparentemente senza meta. È il vagabondare della mente alla ricerca del proprio corpo e delle proprie radici, perché Austerlitz quelle radici le ha perse e non sa chi sia.
Sebald incontra Jacques Austerlitz, un professore di Storia dell
Justin Evans
Jul 23, 2009 Justin Evans rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I couldn't do it. I really wanted to finish this book. I finish every book I start, and even if I hate them, I enjoy writing scathing reviews. But as my wife pointed out, life is too short. It's not just the execrable prose style, which I'm sure is intentional and has some theoretical justification. It's not the photos- I quite like the idea of photos in novels. It's not just the idiotic attempts to be highbrow, by referencing Wittgenstein (whom the narrator thinks is a 'dark thinker'!) And it's ...more

I have read 160 pages of 414. I am giving this book up. It is not to my taste. Just as as in the last book I read, Far to Go, this is about those children who escaped Nazi cpntrolled countries through Kindertransport during WW2. In both books the child was transported away from Czechoslovakia. Both children were about 5-6 years of age. Both books are about those children who never again are united with thêir parents, about children who only at an adult age realize they were born in
Sep 03, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers of fiction and memoir, and people who like illustrations in their books.
Recommended to Alison by: Everybody was reading it, but Rebecca actually talked to me abou
Austerlitz is a novel that subversively and gracefully explores the art and artifice of the memoir form: an unnamed narrator reports on the memoirs of a man named Austerlitz, who has only recently begun to research and discover his own past, which has been obscured from him for decades by traumatic amnesia, and of which virtually no traces of supporting data remain after the Holocaust. How does Austerlitz discover that past? By an obsessive study of architecture, which leads him away from the bo ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Margarida rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terminar este livro é ficar com a sensação de ter estado num frágil bote sobre a crista de uma onda, no mar alto. Conforme a maré das memórias de Austerlitz, assim o bote vogava melancolicamente pela vida de Jacques Austerlitz, a criança judia que cresceu na vila rural de Bala, Gales, e passou a sua vida de adulto a procurar as suas raízes até, finalmente, conseguir enfrentar o monstro nazi que destruiu a sua família.
Apr 05, 2015 Paola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Semplicemente: capolavoro.
Perché la storia, siamo noi.

Questo libro richiede di saper volare, di avere ali grandi che possano seguire le correnti, e che permettano di ascendere oltre le nuvole, di planare dolcemente e di atterrare senza farsi male.

Ho iniziato la lettura immaginando di andare a sbattere contro il muro delle sue pagine fitte fitte di scrittura, nessun acapo, forse un dialogo o due, nessuna divisione in capitoli, alcune fotografie, apparato iconografico che funge da testimone visivo
Sebald's last novel, Austerlitz, is an intelligent, perspicacious work whose final message warns against the "dissolution, in line with the inexorable spread of processed data, of our capacity to remember" and the "increasingly importunate urge to break with everything which still has some living connection to the past."

Austerlitz is set strongly against the backdrop of the Holocaust, in particular, but Sebald makes us see those warnings as generally applicable to all of our histories. He publis
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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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“It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last, just as when we have accepted an invitation we duly arrive in a certain house at a given time.” 74 likes
“We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.” 37 likes
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