W.G. Sebald's weirdest book. Wow! It starts some time in the early 19th century and follows the exploits of a Napoleonic campaign through the alps to end up in the 1950's alpine terrain of Austria and finally in 1980's Italy searching through newspaper cuttings for obscure and eccentric advertisements. This is awonderfully playful, inventive, and strange book. Part collage and parallel universe, it takes a grip on the reader's attention and trawls you through many peculiar incidents and crams each page with a mixture of real and invented biographical details. The micro-universe described in the book is Sebald's own mischeivious tinkering with his alter ego or imagined/dreamed other self. He wants you to think it is partly a journal and a travelogue when in fact we know it is all made up - or is it?! It is a skillful work of factish fiction, perhaps peppered with funny and bizarre anecdotes and sub-stories to amaze and bewilder you. I read it whilst on vacation in Rome and found it oozed more metaphysical putty! As much of it takes places in Italy it is deeply evocative and compellingly descriptive in a way that makes you hungry for more detail and information. With all of Sebald's fictions you are immersed in a topsy turvy world of alternative realities prompted or suggested by a bus ticket, an old found photo, an overheard snippet of information. Sebald is the master of collectors, pouring his flair for the humdrum banalities of everyday life into a funnel of mystery and melancholic brooding. His dramas are small yet all of them are memorable because of their weirdness and the reader's knowledge that it is Sebald himself that he is essentially describing: warts and all. Its a deeply rewarding and magical book. He should have got the Nobel prize for literature but he didn't because he died aged 57 from a brain haemorrhage. He was one of the all time greats and he knew it, that's why he wrote just a handful of quirky books and we read them over and over again to get back into his world.
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