In this astonishing meditation on mortality, transience and the absurdities of civilisation, Sebald performs a circumnavigation of both the forlorn landscape of East Anglia and his own mind. Sebald is endlessly fascinated about everything, and in reading his erudite digressions, the reader feels as though they are accompanying a wise and entertaining travelling companion on a series of eccentric perambulations, in which spontaneous 'strayings from the path' become a lunatic's itinerary. Yet even if one might feel Panchez-like to these Quixotic tilting at windmills, we are never short-changed. Sebald, for all his vast knowledge, is a habitual storyteller, a master anecdotalist. His melancholic ramblings are often leavened by moments of wry humour - comic observations of the crapness of modern life: the entropic edifices of a geriatric empire gazing sadly out to sea. 'Forlorness' is a word he uses to capture this Ozymandian-ambience. And yet, the sheer act of composing this hallucinatory travelogue - beautifully-crafted sentences contained within vast paragraphs which can last several pages - is an act of artistic defiance in the face of inevitable oblivion. One cannot help but feel enriched from reading this masterpiece of psychogeography - in its singular prose style eschewing the chummy reportage of some modern travel books. It makes you want to pull on those walking boots, grab a notebook and head for the empty spaces.
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