May 11, 2005
Reading W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz and enjoying it immensely. To me it is demonstrative of what the tenets of Postmodernism (or Derrida's conception of history) look like when conveyed in modernist terms. It is a sort of slow-motion depiction of the moment of impact, those years and events which made Postmodernism necessary. It is powerful in the oblique way it addresses matters of utmost gravity (prison camps, fascism), as if one can no more look into the black sun directly than the real sun itself. Though looking at Amazon.com reviews (why do I do this?) and other criticism, people seem to have reacted to this novel as if it WERE nonlinear. Which is insane. It is completely linear, you could script it as a radio play, ableit the narrative contains many stories-within-stories (the Austerlitz character recounts most of them). But it is a NARRATIVE, which goes from point A to point B in an explicable fashion. Peoples' reactions to this book make me worried about what our reading public has come to expect--Cold Mountain and Stephen King ad infinitum? Sebald if explicity laying things out for the reader with Austerlitz's mouth, I think it provides a fabulous segue into pomo, were I teaching a course where I had to introduce pomo students unfamiliar with the concept, I would employ this text.
Posted by Mark Lamoureux