The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 19 May 2003

The Rings of Saturn

by W. G. Sebald

In this unusual book, W. G. Sebald takes a walking tour south from Norwich, England, and through Suffolk, the easternmost region of the British Isles. In what is not at all a commonplace travelogue, Sebald takes small clues from the history and the landscape to embark upon vivid and intensely literate rambling thoughts on history and the connections of human tragedy and memory. He writes what is apparently a very well-researched treatise on various historical events, but with a novelist's style and evocative language. Upon setting out on his journey, Sebald dwells upon historical figures, literary giants, the development of country estate living in Suffolk, Chinese dynastic history, wars of various stripe, the memoirs of Chateaubriand, and the loss of trees during the tragic 1987 gale that struck France and England. And this is only a small subset of the topics touched upon in this book. Sebald manages to weave them together in an engaging and almost haunting manner. There is a tone of personal involvement with history, and there is an aspect of sadness or even despair in the author's feelings about what he is writing. He sees much desolation in the landscape. One can't help but imagine this region of England as a broad green barren prairie. But this is the nature of Sebald's look back upon the history and thread of life he is describing. It is an intense book, unique, literary and recommended.

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Also by Sebald: [Austerlitz]

See Also: [The Memoirs of Chateaubriand edited by Robert Baldick]