Austerlitz

by W.G. Sebald | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0140297995 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingbooktwitcherwing of Chelmsford, Essex United Kingdom on 12/14/2007
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingbooktwitcherwing from Chelmsford, Essex United Kingdom on Friday, December 14, 2007
An almost dream like combination of fictional memoir, travelogue and history book. This is a difficult book to read and would not be to everyone's taste, but on reading it you feel you've learned much about the Kindertransport children's sense of loss and the architectural personalities of some British and European buildings. I know an odd combination, but the buildings and the atomspheres they exuded was what drew me into this book. I'm sure someone else would find a different aspect of the book attracted them!

The blurb: In 1939, five-year-old jacques Austerlitz is sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents. This childless couple promptly erase from the boy all knowledge of his identity and he grows up ignorant of his past. Later in life, after a career as an architectural historain, Austerlitz - having avoided all clues that might point to his origin - finds the past returning to haunt him and he is forced to explore what happened to him fifty years before ....

This is to go on a bookring:
turquoisefloyd
bookgroupman

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Friday, December 21, 2007
Despite rumours to the contrary this has come to me first; thank you booktwitcher for sharing and the Xmas card :)

Have a great Xmas...and happy reading in 2008

Journal Entry 3 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, January 07, 2008
(4/01/08) Finished, my first of the year.

No help to the initiated, but if you like Sebald, you’ll like this! His is a unique style (probably closest to Wolf & Joyce – discuss!) which weaves political & family history, geography (with photographic ‘evidence’), architecture, philosophy and biographical fiction. Sebald doesn’t make it easy for the reader, jumping around in time and long tortuous sentences with several different voices. But, the end result is haunting understated prose. Jaques (Austerlitz) and his memories of his childhood bleed through into the text, as does his adult obsession with forts, railway terminuses and civic buildings generally.

Synopsis:
Built around conversations with the older Austerlitz (with the narrator, Sebald himself?), Austerlitz retraces his life from the dour upbringing as a wartime evacuee with a childless Calvinist Welsh preacher and his chronically depressed wife, to the gradual realisation, and search for, his real past in Czechoslovakia (as was). The rise of Nazism, German national pride and increasing persecution [of Jews] are not new themes, but we get a different view from a non-participant, finding out about his Mother’s traumatic break from her son, and the way she gradually loses her grip on events going on around her.

He follows his mother’s journey to a Jewish ghetto in Terezin, but oddly does not pursue his father Maximilian, a political activist who ended up in Paris. The book does not finish neatly, which I think is a weakness, but overall I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing :)

Two final comments;

I was interested to hear about Honore Fragonard (from the famous perfumiers – i’ve visited in Grasse), dissecting and vitrifying thousands of cadavers; I thought that was a modern idea?

Austerlitz in the new National library in Paris, describing the nature of complex (man-made) systems, ‘...I came to the conclusion that in any project that we design and develop, the size and degree of complexity of the information and control systems are crucial factors [so that] the all-embracing and absolute perfection of the concept can in practice coincide, indeed ultimately must coincide, with its chronic dysfunction and constitutional instability.’ Hey, I work in IT, so I can empathise with this view of entropy in operation!

RELEASE NOTES:

Passing on to TurquoiseFloyd at the New Year Ipswich meet-up :)

Journal Entry 5 by abitstormyout from Ely, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Saturday, January 12, 2008
Passed onto me today at the Ipswich Meet - thanks to BookGroupMan for passing it on and Booktwitcher for sending it my way.

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