Four writers share their 'reveries of a solitary walker'
|W. G. Sebald. Photograph: Ulf Anderson|
WG Sebald, who died in a car crash in 2001, was an inspired essayist, quite as much as he was a novelist; indeed, I often think of his most achieved fictions – Austerlitz, and The Emigrants – as writing that tests the limits of both forms, blending them together at their margins with a kind of vaporous diffusion of their creator’s lucidity, so entirely are the invented and the real fused together. This essay on the last years of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s life exhibits all of Sebald’s strengths as a writer – and all of his strange, gnomic, secretive foibles. Ostensibly a straightforward account of Rousseau’s exiled wanderings, it begins with his first glimpse, in 1965, of the Ile Saint Pierre in Switzerland, where Rousseau spent the first period of his stateless exile, and where he claimed – in his Reveries of a Solitary Walker – that he was happier than he had been anywhere else. [Read More]To read James Woods, Iain Sinclair and Robert Macfarlane on Sebald, visit Guardian Review here.
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