jeremy's Reviews > Vertigo

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald
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Mar 29, 12

bookshelves: translation, fiction
Read in March, 2012

what to make of this melancholic, reflective, alluring work that so defies classification? memoir, history, travel writing, fiction, literary recollection of daydreams past? vertigo, sebald's first "novel," is all of these many things at once, eclipsing and synthesizing their respective elements to form something unassumingly unique. while the conception of memory (and its inevitable antipode) is of interest to many a writer, sebald's patient, ruminative reflections stand out in the way that they are able to convey more than mere nostalgia for what has since elapsed. incorporating instances in the lives of stendhal, kafka, and casanova into his narrative, sebald enlives his own tale of exploration and evocation. as he wanders western europe both past and present, we witness the ever ongoing struggle to make sense of remembrance's infinite ebb. with rich, magnificent prose, vertigo, in spite of the dizzying effects of time's onward march that sebald aims to capture, is a lucid work that ambles a long way to revisit what's been left behind.
mme gherardi maintained that love, like most other blessings of civilisation, was a chimaera which we desire the more, the further removed we are from nature. insofar as we seek nature solely in another body, we become cut off from her; for love, she declared, is a passion that pays its debts in a coin of is own minting, and thus a purely notional transaction which one no more needs for one's fulfilment than one needs the instrument for trimming goose-quills that he, beyle, had bought in modena.
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