Sebald's writing, beautiful in the density of its thought, is deeply concerned with memory both individual and cultural. It is pervaded by the trauma of the Second World War and its profound effects on everyone in Europe not just at the time but subsequently. Sebald's first three books, which I review here, are a new narrative genre: part memory, part history, part fiction, part travelogue with, every few pages, a black and white photograph or diagram, without a caption, often indistinct, but always evocative, which takes part in a counterpoint with the text. Overall the tone of Sebald's writing is melancholy, but he is also wry, ironic, and occasionally extraordinarily funny. Susan Sontag has written: "Is literary greatness still possible? What would a noble literary enterprise look like? One of the few answers still available to English language readers is the work of W. G. Sebald."
You can access my review, from The Literary Review of Canada, of Sebald's The emigrants, Vertigo, and The rings of Saturn, by clicking here.