W. G. Sebald on History, Memory and Austerlitz

A 2001 interview explores issues surrounding literature, memory and the Holocaust
W. G. Sebald
In his last interview with The Guardian, W. G. Sebald talks to Maya Jaggi about his writing:
Maya Jaggi: Your work is very oblique and tentative in its approach to the Holocaust; you avoid the sensational. What do you think the dilemmas are of fiction writers tackling the subject.

W. G. Sebald: In the history of postwar German writing, for the first 15 or 20 years, people avoided mentioning political persecution - the incarceration and systematic extermination of whole peoples and groups in society. Then from 1965 this became a preoccupation of writers - not always in an acceptable form. So I knew that writing about the subject, particularly for people of German origin, is fraught with dangers and difficulties. Tactless lapses, moral and aesthetic, can easily be committed.

It was also clear you could not write directly about the horror of persecution in its ultimate forms, because no one could bear to look at these things without losing their sanity. So you would have to approach it from an angle, and by intimating to the reader that these subjects are constant company; their presence shades every inflection of every sentence one writes. If one can make that credible, then one can begin to defend writing about these subjects at all. [Read More]
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