Review: W.G. Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn”

by writereaderly

w.g. sebald rings of saturnMOD can’t speak highly enough of this author, and, based on her recommendation, this was the second of his writings that I have snaffled up in some bibliophilic byway (don’t ask me what the other one was, it’s returned to the mists whence it came). Ostensibly a travelogue of Sebald’s walking tour through Anglia (south-eastern England), but more accurately it is a sequence historical and philosophical rhapsodies on places, people and objects somehow related to destinations on Sebald’s journey. The topics are so wide-ranging – e.g., train carriages made for Chinese emperors, silk policies in Europe in the 17th century, Joseph Conrad’s maritime history leading to his authorship of Heart of Darkness – their exploration so well researched and erudite, the writing so fluid and lyrical (*excellent* translation), that I often lost my sense of where and when and what on earth I was reading, and had to do some assiduous page-flicking. The text is beautiful, strange, informed and poetic, accompanied by (sometimes loosely) related photos and images, a mindstream of historical anecdotes thematically linked in that they explore decay, decadence, (self)destruction. The passing away that is life. Recommended for the contemplative.

Where it came from: Market bookstall
Time and manner of reading:
Various couchy, beddy, waity reads, normally only a chapter at a time
Where it went: HG
Reminds me of/that: Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit; Herzog’s long walks (Berlin to Paris, etc.)
Who I’d recommend it to:
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman