Kristianne's Reviews > The Rings of Saturn

The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
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Jan 22, 2016

Read in April, 2010 , read count: 2


“I suppose it is submerged memories that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But, perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno.”
Being back in Pyin Oo Lwin was much like this dream state, in which everything seemed heightened with clarity of surreal memory. I found my copy of Sebald’s “Rings of Saturn,” where I had left it and decided to re-read it. This reading, one year exactly from the date I previously read the book, was somehow more satisfying for the familiarity of it. Like long-parted friends, Sebald’s words and I met again on the same balcony over that little street in Myanmar. He is a beautifully meandering writer and this journey takes us through little nooks and crannies of Suffolk, both place and historical space. From Thomas Browne to the dreamscape of Somerleyton, Josef Condrad’s development to Thomas Abrams meticulous model of the temple of Jerusalem among so many other things. He spans these diverse subjects seamlessly. I’ll find another place to leave the book and see if it finds a way back to me again.

from the first reading:
Before I left for SE Asia someone I cared immensely for gave me an elaborate bon voyage note in which was written the following quote from Sebald:
"Memories lie slumbering in us for months and years, quietly proliferating until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life. How often this has caused me to feel that my memories and the labors expended in writing them down are all part of the same humiliating and at bottom contemptible business! And yet, what would we be without memory."

Maybe because my voyage began with words from the book, maybe because I took the book along with me and read it with a slow, savoring pace, since it was the last English book I had in the small town in Burma where I was living, maybe because I read it near the end of my fifth month out, feeling far from people I love. Whatever the cause, Rings of Saturn sits quite deeply with me. It is both a travelogue and a Proustian mind-wander. Both make it that much more endearing to me.
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