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Austerlitz

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  18,967 ratings  ·  1,445 reviews
Austerlitz, the internationally acclaimed masterpiece by “one of the most gripping writers imaginable” (The New York Review of Books), is the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle. A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, one Jacques Aus-terlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist ...more
Paperback, 298 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Modern Library (first published November 2001)
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Renate most people can remember events after age 3. before the age of speech, there is no verbal memory. Trauma causes dissociation or blockage of memory whi…moremost people can remember events after age 3. before the age of speech, there is no verbal memory. Trauma causes dissociation or blockage of memory which is what happened to Austerlitz. if the trauma is dealt with, the memory can return.(less)
Jaap I guess I just got to the 9-page sentence... and am still waiting for it to end with "mit" :)

It's not the easiest thing to read, but as Tom said, not …more
I guess I just got to the 9-page sentence... and am still waiting for it to end with "mit" :)

It's not the easiest thing to read, but as Tom said, not impossible. It does take a bit of intellectual effort in that it uses fragments of other languages too, but they are clear enough from the context.(less)

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David
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Glenn Russell
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition



“No one can explain exactly what happens within us when the doors behind which our childhood terrors lurk are flung open.”
― W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

Turning the pages of the novel Austerlitz makes for one powerful, emotionally wrenching experience. Here's what esteemed critic Michiko Kakutani wrote as part of her New York Times review: "We are transported to a memoryscape - a twilight, fogbound world of half-remembered images and ghosts that is reminiscent at once of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawber
...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The waiting hall of the Antwerp central station – Salle des pas perdus – hall of lost steps – is the symbol of the past in the book…
Austerlitz commented in passing of this lady, whose peroxide-blond hair was piled up into a sort of bird’s nest, that she was the goddess of time past. And on the wall behind her, under the lion crest of the kingdom of Belgium, there was indeed a mighty clock, the dominating feature of the buffet, with a hand some six feet long traveling round a dial which had once
...more
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
Steven Godin
I first came across the writings of W.G. Sebald by complete accident, wandering in a bookstore I accidentally caught the edge of a table and sent three or four books hurtling to the floor, one was Sebald's 'Vertgo' a book that was unfamiliar to me, but one that caught my attention. Although it didn't set the world on fire for me in ways I had hoped for, it was no doubt the work of a true ingenious writer who pushed the boundaries of fiction into new territory. Within just three pages of reading ...more
Geoff
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”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
Michael Finocchiaro
W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz is an austere but beautiful narrative within a narrative about identity and loss with the Holocaust as a looming backdrop. The narrator (unnamed) records conversations with Joseph (Jacques) Austerlitz whom he meets a few times by chance and later at the whim of Austerlitz. This secondary narrator talks about his life before discovering his origins and the incredible quest across the Czech Republic, Germany, and France to find memories of his mother and father. There wer ...more
Warwick
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
Jeffrey Keeten
*****This book received the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2019, it was ranked 5th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.*****

”Standing on the ruins of history, standing both in and on top of history’s depository, Jacques Austerlitz is joined by his name to these ruins: and again, at the end of the book, as at the beginning, he threatens to become simply part of the rubble of history, a thing, a depository of facts and dates, not a human being.”

His name is Jacq
...more
Roger Brunyate
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, holocaust
After the Holocaust

This extraordinary book is the inner narrative of an elderly adopted Englishman trying to recapture a childhood shattered by the Holocaust, and to come to grips with the resultant sickness of postwar Europe. But this Freudian search is firmly rooted in the detail of everyday things: a childhood in Wales, curiosities of natural history, old photographs, the architecture of railroad stations. Its multi-layered narrative style, almost devoid of paragraphs, keeps you at a distance
...more
Meike
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany, 2018-read
How do we (re-)construct the past, and how does memory shape us? In this novel, Sebald discusses many aspects of personal memory and the re-telling of history as a cultural and culturally shaped technique, themes that are also central in the scientific works of Jan and Aleida Assmann who just yesterday received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. I think it's very telling that experts on cultural memory receive a PEACE prize, as the way we face, frame and remember our personal and the hist ...more
Matthew Ted
175th book of 2020.

I exist only because my German grandmother and her brother were two of 35 children brought to England at the end of the Second World War on the Kindertransport by an English Red Cross Charity worker named Edith Snellgrove. For whatever reason, she fell in love with my grandmother and my great-uncle, and, though not formally, adopted them. My grandmother is still alive today, whom I see twice a week, though she suffers from dementia and schizophrenia and has no command of the G
...more
Luís
Austerlitz.
Great Napoleonic victory. How many people can boast of having this surname not banal?
People with extraordinary destiny probably. It would be not easy to understand that such people remain in the shadows.
Jacques Austerlitz, the main character of this WG Sebald book is one of those, scholar, a passionate, a philosopher, a man in search of his past, that of his family ... What was his life before the age of 4 and a half? .... Has he always called Austerlitz? Has he still lived in Wales,
...more
·Karen·
Apr 23, 2010 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.
Alan
Jun 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german
Sebald’s books are so seductive. The first thing that catches you (if you’re lucky) is the cover. I am a sucker for minimal covers, and I thought Austerlitz did a great job, but so do Vertigo, The Emigrants, and The Rings of Saturn. Take a look at these and tell me you don’t want them on your shelf.

Sebald

But a book isn’t just about the cover, as we all know (although I don’t fully subscribe to the old adage to not judge a book by its cover – I will continue to do so, at least to some extent). Austerli
...more
Marc
At first sight, this book seems like an endless succession of distant observations, a long chain of purely visual descriptions by the author himself (at least if we assume the narrator is Sebald) and especially by his somewhat mysterious friend Jacques Austerlitz. I know this does not seem very attractive, and it is also strengthened by the monotonous and slow narrative style that is sustained throughout the story. I can understand that many people slam this book after a number of pages.

But at t
...more
John David
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nigeyb
Jun 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Austerlitz (2001) was W.G. Sebald's final novel before his tragic death in 2001. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was ranked at number five on The Guardian's 2019 list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.

Austerlitz is the story of a refugee, the eponymous, Austerlitz, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport. His story is related by an anonymous narrator who hears the story during a number of chance encounters with Austerlitz. This technique powerfully allows the reader
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonfaith
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Austerlitz was as peregrine and haunting as I remembered. Of course this reading was informed by James Wood which I admit to being both thankful for and distracted by during this wonderful interim. The careful prose and the crafted allusions are mesmerizing. The palpable dread is never sentimentalized.

My best friend is in town to see his father. Earlier today while walking about and toting Austerlitz I told him that Bolano and Sebald died relatively young so that per chance we could possibly le
...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

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
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
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
Sacred: veneration revered, hallowed, is some of the ways the dictionary defines it, defines Sebald’s writing stretched in its own subconscious of the connections of words and letters.

Connections deemed necessary. Without them the altar of memories crumble. The disconnection of memory, dammed in its own painful fear leaves Austerlitz in a search for himself.

In the meetings over the years, unplanned, coincidental, the narrator let’s Austerlitz speaking his words of polished melancholia, as Sebal
...more
Jill
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translations
This book is a hauntingly beautiful work of art. The unnamed narrator shares the story of his acquaintance slowly and vaguely, almost like watching fog rolling in. It’s incredibly moving to read how Austerlitz gradually unravels how he came to be the man he is and what his true history is.

I would be fascinated to learn more about how this was written, what parts are based on the author’s life and where the pictures came from. I’ve never read anything like it before, and I’m convinced it needs t
...more
Adam Dalva
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The moments of illumination and beauty that are sprinkled throughout this book are as gorgeous as anything in writing. Sebald has cleverly constructed a plot of repression, as several filters, both stylistic and narrative, separate us from the main plot of this book, which we desperately search for: Who is Austerlitz, and what is he running from? When the truth first reveals itself, in the abandoned waiting area outside a ladies room in a soon-to-be-destroyed station, it's absolutely hair-raisin ...more
Friederike Knabe
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ieva Andriuskeviciene
To say that is good is not enough. Very good. Fantastic. One man’s journey to reveal his troubled adoption during holocaust.
Don’t get confused, it is not another popular story about concentration camps. Beautifully written story taking us through streets, art museums, Victorian cemeteries and historical buildings.
And how can you not like a book which finishes in your hometown Kaunas?
P.S. Theres is 9 pages long sentence (331-345) in a book.
Lisa
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-tbr-shelf
Most of this novel is taken up with Austerlitz describing landscape, architecture and objects to a passive narrator. Eventually, repressed memories of his traumatic separation as a child from his family surface. I found the dreamy, disorienting style frustrating. I needed an interpreter! I think if I studied this novel as part of a class, I would appreciate it much more.

Looking back over all the past years, I could now see myself with the utmost clarity as that child suddenly cast out of his fa
...more
dianne
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Is this a story of deprivation or salvation? This wee 4 year old Jewish Czech son of an opera singer and a politician sent on a children’s train to Wales in 1939 and then abruptly expected to become the son of a Calvinist preacher.

How much do any of us really remember from the years before we were 4? Glimpses? Sightings? But are those photos we’ve seen? Memory is faulty, and, as we are assured by Austerlitz: A clock is “a thoroughly mendacious object”

It is certainly a wonderful story about payi
...more
Lyn Elliott
As I’ve just finished reading Austerlitz, I’m left with impressions of the pervasive presence of memory, suppressed and destructive in its partial recovery; misty landscapes and half seen figures from the past who fade in and out of focus.

The inserted photographs which are a feature of Sebald’s work are typically grainy and indistinct, like memory itself. I can’t help wondering how and when Sebald selected the images he wanted to use - sometimes it seems as though he has sought out images delibe
...more
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Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald was a German writer and academic. His works are largely concerned with the themes of memory, loss of memory, and identity (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 G ...more

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