Some years ago, on a bitter February winter I had the pleasure of holidaying on the bewitching Isle of Skye with a copy of W G Sebald's Austerlitz. The Scottish islands endless melancholic coastal panoramas and desolate corners of Heather and Bracken provided my weary mind with a perfect backdrop whilst I succumbed to Sebald's germanically dry prose. The book charts the story/fiction of an infant refugee of the second world war who was relocated to Wales to live with a Calvinist preacher and his wife. He later falls into academia and with an interest in European architecture and visits Prague, here he discovers fragments of the history of his biological parents, the novel's focus then shifts to Paris where the difficulties in unearthing the past both practically and emotionally are explored by Sebald and his novels protagonist. Typical of Sebald's work every connection is oblique and metaphorical. Endless hypo-hypo diegesis', rabbit holes of discovery and curiosity are woven skillfully and deliberately in order to provide a maze whereby the reader can feel/experience the emotional maze of post war European history at its most poignant. Sebaldian has become synonymous for such intricate mazes of consciousness, memory, history and time, the accelerating slip through histories and individual perspectives afforded by his hypo-hypo ( and often hypo-hypo-hypo-hypo-hypo ) diegesis', is an exhilarating experience, but this framework for discovery and connection would not execute so profoundly were it not for Sebalds subtle prose.
As all bookish, introverted souls must know the solitude of the minds isolation can be powerful and comforting. Sebald, most likely, spent the majority of his years immersed, more than most, in this cerebral abyss. Within Austerlitz the hypo-hypo diegesis and the beautiful metaphors are not the most affecting component, rather, it is Sebalds avuncular intellectual meanderings that provide a base for the apparatus to operate. His endless asides, the minor digressions, inconsequential additions and musings are where the reader is most likely to get lost and where this literary strategies begin to flourish in effectiveness. However were it not for Sebalds unique prose and enthralling meanderings the literary mechanics of his work would not execute to such engulfing effects. Some find his techniques irritating and confusing but for the people who see metaphors in everyday life and comfort in introverted solitude I expect there is a universe of pleasure to be found within Austerlitz.
With regard to Sebalds germanic, intellectual meanderings and his maze-like porocryptic literary mechanisms I've always imagined the readers experience of to be similar to a journey whereby one walks through a deep chasm, not knowing what is around the next corner or what sort of awesome panoramas could be seen upon sighting the horizon. The sky is clear and through the atmosphere endless gigantic satellites with huge mirrors reflect the ground below. As the reader walks through the chasm, slowly progressing forwards out of curiosity the only way to catch fleeting glimpses of the ( cultural ) landscape in which one inhabits is to look upwards at the reflections of the world from the satellites enormous mirrors. The experience of navigating through small glimpses of a bigger, beautiful picture one can never fully comprehend is the analogy for the Sebaldian mechanics that bit by bit divulge fragments of a massive post war cultural phenomenon of forgotten and repressed memories and political-geographic connections. Its only through the ceasing of chasing that which is apparent and linear can the reader take time to reside in solitude and drink in the myriad of reflections that betray the massive sprawling context that we live within/through, oblivious and ignorant for the most part but there, through the corner of the eye a reflection of the world is present. The recognition of such socio-politcal cues, the gentle tugging on our deep strata of familiarity is where Sebald offers the chance for the reflections of the landscape to be experienced but the comprehension and interpretation lies within our own psyche.
W G Sebald's endless Borgesian hypo-hypo diegesis' and meditative and seemingly inconsequential intellectual meanderings documenting and threading his memories, fictions and experiences into our own consciousness and resurrecting the readers sub-conscious impressions of post war cultural phenomena is an incredible experience but one that must be succumbed to to not unlike hypnosis for the art of his prose and literary strategy is the cuing and tugging at sub-memory notions we may harbour, a massive excavation of repressed connotations oblique connections slowly, delicately conducted by Sebald.