I can count on one hand the number of books I've read in the past decade that immediately overwhelmed me with how obviously and singularly great they were, not just in deployment of prose and style or in narrative structure or in content and message but how all of these things swirled together in a perfect cocktail, each informing and enhancing the other — indeed, this sort of gestalt analysis of a piece of art seems more obvious to me in the context of video games (see my writing on Celeste), where it's easier for me to separate the act of "playing the game" from the act of "internalizing/critiquing the game."

But Austerlitz, like Pale Fire or To the Lighthouse (to call out two examples that come most readily to mind), as a perfect gem — unique, brilliant prose supporting a terrific and (to flirt with redundancy) unique post-modernistic struture, neither of which are rococo but in fact are deployed specifically to tell the story that Sebald wishes to tell.

A jewel of a book; everyone should experience it.



Someone, he added, ought to draw up a catalogue of types of buildings listed in order of size, and it would be immediately obvious that domestic buildings of less than normal size—the little cottage in the fields, the hermitage, the lockkeeper’s lodge, the pavilion for viewing the landscape, the children’s bothy in the garden—are those that offer us at least a semblance of peace, whereas no one in his right mind could truthfully say that he liked a vast edifice such as the Palace of Justice on the old Gallows Hill in Brussels. At the most we gaze at it in wonder, a kind of wonder which in itself is a form of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins.

We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.

Then she said, so quietly that you could hardly hear her: What was it that so darkened our world? And Elias replied: I don’t know, dear, I don’t know.

Our concern with history, so Hilary’s thesis ran, is a concern with preformed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered

industrialists and manufacturers, lawyers and doctors, rabbis and university professors, singers and composers, bank managers, businessmen, shorthand typists, housewives, farmers, labourers and millionaires, people from Prague and the rest of the Protectorate, from Slovakia, from Denmark and Holland, from Vienna and Munich, Cologne and Berlin, from the Palatinate, from Lower Franconia and Westphalia—each of whom had to make do with about two square meters of space in which to exist and all of them, in so far as they were in any condition to do so or until they were loaded into trucks and sent on east, obliged to work entirely without remuneration in one of the primitive factories set up, with a view to generating actual profit, by the External Trade Section, assigned to the bandage-weaving workshop, to the handbag and satchel assembly line, the production of horn buttons and other haberdashery items, the manufacturing of wooden soles for footwear and of cowhide galoshes; to the charcoal yard, the making of such board games as Nine Men’s Morris and Catch the Hat, the splitting of mica, the shearing of rabbit fur, the bottling of ink dust, or the silkworm-breeding station run under the aegis of the SS

Lightning bolt
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