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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  6,476 ratings  ·  547 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 February 2001)
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Best German/Austrian Literature
28th out of 520 books — 483 voters
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Community Reviews

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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...more
”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...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 18, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
Winfried Georg Sebald was born in Wertach, Bavaria, a Roman Catholic Alpine Village in Germany in 1944. He died in 2001 after suffering an aneurysm while driving with his daughter, Anna who survived the crash. He was 57 years old.

Sebald's father joined Hitler's army in 1933 and was interned in France after Germany's defeat in WWII until 1947. Georg Sebald re-enlisted when the new German army was established in 1954. The author was influenced by his grandfather, Josef Engelhofer, whose dependable...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
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"...more
João Carlos
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...more
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...more
MJ Nicholls
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...more
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
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.
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...more
Emilian Kasemi

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...more
May 28, 2014 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
I've moved my review here:

Thanks very much!
Tanuj Solanki
what is a documentary? what can be the scope of a documentary? what are the conditions of a documentary?

when the documentarian meets his subject out of sheer chance, without any agenda, any desire, does it improve the documentary? when the the documentary is made in retrospect, is it still a documentary?

and what does this say of chance?

is the connection between our individual narratives easiest found in the ruins we collectively inherit?

or is the more conspicuous act, that of the reconstruction...more
Robert Ronsson
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...more
When I discovered W.G. Sebald, I read Vertigo first, and then The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn. Minutes after I read the final page of The Rings of Saturn, I flipped it over and began again. I read that book six times, maybe seven. Still I avoided Austerlitz. Maybe I was saving the finest for last or maybe it was fear: fear of the subject matter, fear that the book would fail my expectations, fear that it would be too good. When finally I read it (nearly straight through, though its complic...more
Before Austerlitz I was only dimly aware of W.G. Sebald's literary reputation. By this I mean that I knew it was serious and well-established. Then in late 2011 I read James Wood's gloss in the London Review of Books which solidified my curiosity. Having now finished Austerlitz I can only acknowledge the praise as well deserved and agree that Sebald's untimely death in 2001 was a tragedy for literature. The book, to be blunt, is simply amazing and a text that needs to be, as is often stated, cha...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...more
At some time in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life. p.212
A book about a man, Austerlitz, who is pictured on the cover as a boy looking very much like The Little Prince, trying to find his way back to his planet. Yes, it is about the holocaust, but it is not a futile exercise in despair. The writing is too good to allow that easy of a route. Instead, the hypnotic prose sustains us in a state of meditation. I've never read any other author who can d...more
Justin Evans
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
May 13, 2009 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Book Award; Various Reviews
Using a fractured frame narrative, Sebald turns this book into a resplendent meditation on how qualities triumph over cold facts, and how impressions reshape memory, time, and space. An example will make the author's style clearer. As we follow a man’s journey to recapture the past, watch how Sebald describes a dingy London train station. The speaker, Austerlitz, finds himself ...

... unable to move from the spot, with my face raised to the icy gray light, like moonshine, which came through the w
it's the autumn. the floating leaves and cold mornings. coffee swirling up over your ceramic cup and up into sad skies. where on your morning commute you feel the weight of architecture. curbs remind you of a hand you once held. and the world becomes full of the people that stepped through your life. on some personal level this book reminds you of the power of memory and to divorce yourself from your own personal history condemns you to a life not lived. there is a photograph of my grandfather w...more
The most magnificent aspect of this book for me was the fact that a German born writer was able to write a fictional narrative supported by themes of time and memory from the perspective of a Czech Jew after the Holocaust. Austerlitz journey through Germany en route to Prague and back from London is especially moving. As a reader, you have the knowledge that the author is German, but he's not writing from his own experience. Sebald sees through the eyes of Austerlitz, and this is when a reader c...more
This book may not "work" for everybody, but it affected me profoundly. For reasons I find it hard to pin down. Some combination of the underlying sense of displacement and Sebald's ability to capture in words the unique power of certain European land/cityscapes to lodge in one's memory.

This is very much a book about memory. Sebald has the ability to write evocatively more so than any other writer I can think of. You're likely either to love or hate his work. But you should certainly give him a...more
Boria Sax
In a world where just about everything is reduced to statistics from "likes" and "friends" on Facebook to "hits" on Google, what is the place of all of our half articulate intuitions, faded memories and presentiments? Sebald's answer in his novel Austerlitz is that we need them to find our way. This is the story of a man who, as a Jewish child, had been smuggled out of Prague after the Nazi takeover and adopted by a couple in Wales. Throughout his life, he is troubled by a uncertainty as to who...more
From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
W G Sebald's masterpiece novel about remembering the Holocaust, in a new dramatisation for radio by Michael Butt. The narrator meets a quiet stranger in the Antwerp station cafe and he begins to confide an unsettling story of vanished identity - which travels through 1930s Czechosolovakia, the Kindertransport of Jewish children to Britain and adoption in Wales.
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.
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Austerlitz By W.G. Sebald 3 73 Jul 28, 2013 10:09AM  
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • Dining on Stones
  • Islands
  • Small Remedies
  • Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
  • In the Forest
  • Thursbitch
  • Nowhere Man
  • Wittgenstein's Nephew
  • Shroud
  • Schooling
  • Gabriel's Gift
  • The Bottle Factory Outing
  • Sybil, or the Two Nations
  • Adjunct: An Undigest
  • The Heart of Redness
  • Transit
  • The Assistant
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...
The Rings of Saturn The Emigrants Vertigo On the Natural History of Destruction After Nature

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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.” 57 likes
“We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.” 26 likes
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