I wish I was a wine connoisseur because it would mean I could use an
informed evidence-based example of a fine wine cleansing the palate
ready for the next course as an analogy for my reading of Max Sebald.
But sad to say I know nothing about wine beyond bottle-cork-red-white so I'm going to have to resort to a rather second rate analogy and settle for Listerine instead, sorry.
You know that mouthwash, the one that lifts the roof off your mouth via the top of your head and wakes you up to a whole new set of tastes?
In fact it's possibly a better analogy because I am making interesting if not startling discoveries as I read Max akin to clearing away the old flavours, the remnants of yesterday's garlic and setting you up with a completely new reading taste, all the left-overs that have gone before are erased for the moment and the next book you pick up, no matter who has written it, is infused with a freshness that leaves all your reading feeling quite invigorated and renewed.
Now in the end I think Listerine possibly preferable to a bottle of Chateau Neuf de Nuits St Georges Cabernet de Sauvignon Blue Nun 1966, just don't drink it.
I still haven't got hyper-Sebaldacaemia and suspect I may never succumb, I could just carry on reading him forever because the writing offers something so different from the normal fare and all tied up with that steady flow of words which ignite such flights of the imagination.
Austerlitz my latest Max Sebald read and a book that has lasted since before Christmas which is odd. Odd in that it is an extremely difficult book to stop reading because it's like a slow-speed but non-stopping train, there is absolutely nowhere to get off. No chapters, no paragraphs, no natural pauses where you think 'right I'll go and make a cup of tea' in fact just one break in the book that I can recall, so you are almost forcibly and relentlessly rooted to the text.
Max Sebald has you trapped on this particular journey in more ways than one.You literally almost have to tear yourself away mid-sentence and as you do you feel a wrench which I think you are supposed to.This I'm learning is what Max Sebald's writing does for me, there is an actual identifiable tangible physical feeling to be experienced alongside the read.
But others in history have been trapped on train journeys too and this probably all fits in with the steady flow of train and railway imagery with which the book is littered. Jacques Austerlitz (and was my brain meant to keep on and on momentarily reading that as Auschwitz?) is retracing his forgotten childhood having arrived in England in 1939 on the kindertransport from Europe.
His adult journey from a state of unbelonging to one of self-discovery is full of traumas, side tracking and emotional turmoil as Jacques makes the inevitable discoveries about what happened to his family after he had been put on that train.His identity slowly emerges but the pain and anguish is considerable.The sun doesn't seem to shine a great deal and coupled with the fact that we've had non-stop dark, grey afternoons here for weeks now that may be why I took so long to read Austerlitz. Twenty or so pages at one go sufficient to fuel hours of thought.
In his usual oblique style and with Max Sebald's photographic imagery interwoven this is one of those books you can only suggest that people have to discover for themselves and the time will need to be right for it to work.I suspect this is a book that will invoke a fresh response and mean something different to every single person who reads it.
I tried Austerlitz a few years ago and just couldn't fathom it at all, but this time I'm on a roll and I've made it.
Alongside I have another beautiful book published by The Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Searching for Sebald edited by Lise Patt with Christel Dillbohner. This will be perceived by many as a coffee table book, but be assured it is one that will spend very little time on the coffee table here at any rate and is looking far from pristine very quickly. Over 600 pages of pure Sebaldian magic, a multi-media based approach to his work, theoretical essays blend with art history, film and photographic studies and a fascinating research piece, The Truth Which Lies Elsewhere, a retracing of Max Sebald's walk through East Anglia so stunningly revealed in The Rings of Saturn.
I hardly know where to turn next but think I will hover around with my Austerlitz thinking and this book for a while before I head to Vertigo, then only Campo Santo left.
Woe is me, rations are almost consumed.