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Austerlitz (Allemand) Broché – 16 janvier 2003

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Book by Sebald W G

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12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A LIFE THAT NEVER WAS 30 octobre 2003
Par DAVID BRYSON - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This novel is obviously not everyone's cup of tea, but it's mine. I was lent it without having asked for it or even heard of it, and to have a hope of enjoying it I would suggest - don't read too many reviews before you start. Favourable as well as unfavourable, they could frighten you off.

The book begins with a digression, but there's no way of knowing that if one is starting from cold. It could be a travelogue, showing the fascination with detail and the reflective, analytical and detached cast of mind that pervades it right to the end. The main narrative eases itself in shortly after without any change of pace, style or tone, and the calm passionless idiom never varies up to the last page. Jacques Austerlitz was a refugee from the nazis, but too young to have clear recollections of the time. He was brought up by a childless and cheerless Welsh couple, given a new name and told nothing about his origins. These come to light, as they can in novels, when as a talented and above-average pupil he turns out a model of an essay on the subject of - the battle of Austerlitz, wouldn't you believe. He reminds me of nothing so much as the 'faint phantom' who visits Penelope in the Odyssey. Everything he says is reported by the `shell' narrator, and his own narrations in their turn contain the reported utterances of others. A brief allusion is made to his slight resemblance to Wittgenstein, and it's hard not to think of the philosopher repeatedly in this tale of a lonely, compulsive, brooding thinker whose emotions and whose very identity have been buried and repressed. He makes his own Odyssey to discover what he can about it, and his 3-week bout of amnesia is, for me, one of the most telling and effective touches in the book. To me this is not another piece of Holocaust-literature, but it has its own highly individual slant on the era and on the pettiness as well as the brutality that made up that deviation of the human spirit and mind.

There is a lot more to the book than the ghostly Austerlitz. He and his narrator are interested in places and things for their own sake, not just in relation to him. I share this outlook in my own way, and as it happens the story took me to some of my own favourite spots - Prague, the strangely empty and unwelcoming Mawddach estuary, the southern Rhine valley, even the old Liverpool Street railway terminus with its gloomy double pillars. It informed me on subjects I knew nothing about, e.g. moths and urban fortifications. Austerlitz even attended the same Oxford college as I did where he would have been taught by J W Gough and the great Billy Pantin, and I wonder who the real people were (or are) whose photographs we are shown purporting to be Austerlitz as a boy and as a young rugby-player.

The book does not read in the least like a translation. It is in what I might call `perfect English' with the intentional implication that you would know it was not an English-speaker speaking. That is all part of the effect, as is the absence of chapter-division, paragraphs and quotation-marks. If that sounds daunting in any way, let me report quite truthfully that I was well into the book before I even noticed. For me, a nigh-on-compulsive read.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
You will see differently 18 juin 2007
Par Shalom Freedman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Occasionally there appears a writer who makes us see the world in a new way. Sebald is such a writer. He notices and concentrates upon details and aspects of reality which otherwise ordinarily go unobserved. So this book is filled with descriptions of things, of places, of sights, scenes, objects which we in the course of ordinary lives go by barely noticing. Sebald observes with precision and obsession, and is a thorough and systematic recorder of these thinglike aspects of the universe most of us ordinarily ignore.

He is a philosophical writer but not in a formal way, but rather through the presentation of experience in a reflective and meditative way. The story of Jacques Austerlitz which is at the heart of this work is not told in a conventional way. It is told to the narrator of the work who himself has no name no apparent identity no history in a series of meetings. In these meetings the voice of Austerlitz takes over and the telling tone becomes indistinguishable from that of the narrator. This does not seem to make any difference, in much the same way as the absence of a certain kind of ordinary expression of close feeling seems to make no difference.

For the tale is told as travelogue as essay in memory in a kind of detached manner, a manner which reflects the relation to life of Austerlitz himself and Sebald also. Sebald is a German writer born in 1944 who first saw his father at the age of three, when the father returned from being a war prisoner. The father had served in the Wehrmacht and would remain estranged from Sebald. Sebald's grandfather was the male figure in his life. When in his teens Sebald was shown in school a film of the concentration camp Belsen and this totally shocked him, and estranged him from the ordinary German life he saw around him. He would later make his adopted country England his home, though he makes clear that even in East Anglia where he taught German Literature for many years he was never at home.

The shock of the past and the reality of the past, and the past never being past are all central in Sebald's work . Thus the hero of this work Jacques Austerlitz a child sent at the age of four from the family home in Prague on the Kindertransport to England is adopted by a Welsh childless couple and raised in a remote world where he too never feels at home. The story of his life in Wales and then at school are prelude to his tracing of his family , and his meeting again with his Czech nursemaid, the woman who closely remembers his parents. Austerlitz tells the tale of tracing the life of his actress mother who eventually was interned at Theirenstadt, and his socialist- activist father who disappeared after the Nazi roundups of Jews in France.

But in this work the story is only one element in the whole literary construction, a construction whose atmosphere and feeling, and again way of seeing things are so unique and singular.

Here is a small taste of the prose which will give some feeling of the work, though certainly not encompass wholly its descriptive and reflective richness. Austerlitz speaks of losing his power to write.

"If language may be regarded as an old city full of streets and squares nooks and crannies , ith some quarters dating far back in times while others have been torn down, clearned up and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching futher and further into the surrounding country, then I was like a man who has been abroad a long time and cannot find his way through the urban sprawl any more, no longer knows what a bus stop is for , or what a back yard is, or a street junction, or an avenue , or a bridge."

This is writing in which enormous knowledge from many areas( with great focus on the architectural and photographic, the visual) and enormous intelligence are continually constructing large complicated sentence structures which flow as one long paragraph-less perceptual- narrative.

I read many books and have read many many in my life, and this is one of those which made me understand that I have been walking around all my life and not seeing much of the world right here before my eyes.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Like a Poetic Dream 27 octobre 2007
Par L.L. Barkat - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
With only a few paragraph breaks in the entire book, this one reads like a poetic dream. Saturated with images, a bit cool and detached, it moves along in pictures more than plot. For this reason, it took me awhile to get captured by the story (for seemingly, there was none). Even then, I was driven more by the potential plots in my head than by any that Sebald had woven. So. If you love a good poem, dig in. In you prefer a good plot, move on.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
European Writing at its Finest 25 août 2007
Par Katherine - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
There are enough well written reviews here to convince readers of the late Sebald's beauty, lyricism, and dream-like lure as a writer. Austerlitz is in my opinion his most beautiful and profound book, though I've yet to read Vertigo. Simply stated, it's his labour of love, and you will come away from the book an altogether different reader and observer. If you're a diarist or a writer of any sort, I promise you will close this book and return to page one and begin again. His long, beautiful sentences will remind readers of Europeans' old-world sensibility; their sense of history and time and of those who have come before us.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Familiar Tale But Now Told By An Artist 30 septembre 2007
Par J.E.Robinson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Part of the enjoyment of this book is the discovery of the story, and I would strongly recommend that one skip the reviews and simply read the book and discover yourself what exactly the novel is about, and then read the comments later. I read nothing until I finished the book. It is an interesting novel that I recommend.

I read some of the professional reviews and one claimed that he had never read such a story about a holocaust survivor. That might be true but also it is not true. This might be one of the best fictional stories, but the non-fiction story is not new and many holocaust survivors from Europe are still alive in their seventies and eighties and one can still here their stories first hand. One can visit museums and read numerous non-fiction accounts and see old film. There are many biographies such as Swimming Across: A Memoir by Andrew S. Grove who described the horrors of life in Budapest during the war and his subsequent march across the border to freedom as a youth.

What Sebald has done here is to create a story or novel that has an artistic slant. Without giving away the plot details he uses the vehicle of a voyage of discovery by a man who was sent to the United Kingdom by train in his youth at age five to escape the war. The boy, Austerliz, whose picture is on the front of the hardcover version has a memory block but when he becomes older he returns to discover his past life in Prague and the horrors of his parents' fate.

Sebald tells the story with artistic prose and with in the insertion of photographs. He tries to create an atmosphere where the characteristics of animals and people are blurred and human actions are viewed as animal like set among German efficiency and planning - which he reveals later in the story. He starts off describing animals in captivity and the similarity with people in rail stations - the great stations of Europe. He goes on until the real intent of the plot emerges after 50 to 100 pages. At that point it changes from a philosophical and a wandering story into a compelling read supported with dramatic and artistic prose.

The novel is interesting and the use of photographs is a powerful technique. The book has a number of other interesting literary twists.

Recommend: 5 stars.
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