“A SNATCH OF HALF-VANISHED MELODY”; THE CLOSEST GLIMPSE WE HAVE INTO SEBALD’S SOUL ;AND HIS PRE-OCCUPATIONS.RUMINATIONS ON “A PLACE IN THE COUNTRY”(TRANS. CAITLING, 2013).PART 1:TRIPP, AND INTRODUCTION TO MY EXTENDED ESSAY.BY STEVEN BENSON.

It is ironic that in a book of-ostensibly-critical essays(on five writers and ONE  painter, all very dear to Sebald), we are a afforded a closer look at Sebald’s OWN psychological/emotional/ spiritual make-up, I will argue, than in any of his prose fictions-with their mystifying, obfuscatory multiple layers of narrative within narrative and narrator within narrator; and their endless blurring of the identities of Sebald the man and writer,his narrators and the protagonists.

These essays were first published together in “Logis in Einem Landhaus”(1998) but some may date from earlier.

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Sebald is the ultimate (self) deconstructionist.So, in the last essay on the painter, Jan Peter Tripp,(“Day and Night”),he talks about the “trompe d’oeil”, whereby Tripp dissects and re-assembles reality(and thereby provides a commentary on it); and self-intertextualizes(with pictures/portraits WITHIN pictures/portraits), and interpolates different period of history. This, I would argue, is a knowing SELF-description of Sebald’s (self)-citationality(or, if you like, INTRA-textuality, though citationality implies knowingness)and periphrastic rhizomes and linkeages between what, initially only,seems to be unbridgeable subject matter. It is queer, in the broader sense.Thus, in the Tripp chapter, “rememberance is after all in the end nothing other than a quotation{sic}. And  the quotation interpolated into a text or image forces us… to re-visit what we know of other texts and images and re-consider our accumulated knowledge of the world”(p.169).

So, Sebald is obviously giving us an inside view of his whole variegated, multi-citational writing process; but also, as i shall now argue, significant glimpses(perhaps more than glimpses)of his hidden inner self.

The essays, with the possible exception of the one on Tripp,are all about melancholics; and in the one on Morike (“Why I grieve I do not know”:A Memento{sic} of Morike”),we get this startlingly self-revelatory passage about Sebald the person:

“{Ostensibly about Morike}His hypochrondria, the mood swings he was constantly prone to, his feelings of faint-heartedness, and the weariness of which he so often speaks; unspecified depressions{cf sebaldian “malaise”}, sympoms of paralysis, sudden weakness, vertigo{sic!}, headaches, the terrors of uncetainty which he continually experiences-all these are symptoms not only of his melancholic disposition, but also of the spiritual effect of a society increasingly determined by a work ethic and the spirit of competition”(p.75). Wow!; we are back at Dunwich Heath, or with Austerlitz in the ladies’ waiting room of Liverpool Street Station, or with the world-weariness of the narrator/”narrator” and characters in “Vertigo” and “the Emmigrants”. BUT, the difference,from these “prose-fictions”(Sebald’s own phrase),is, I argue:- there is no intervening, mediating narratorial voice/consciousness; only that Sebald is writing an essay where he is both talking about Morike AND himself. Of course, this cannot be decidely proven, till a biography in which we discover more of Sebald’s own private thoughts is (ever?) written, and it brings in the vexed argument of how much of the personal life of an author you can indeed determine from his creations and characters and narrators, but we DO have the lack of narratorial(often  MULTIPLE  intervening {sub} voices); and we also have Hamburger and Jarays’ unpublished, except on the web,comments on the undetermined crisis of Sebald’s last yearshttp://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/what-happened-to-sebald-in-marienbad-conjecture-and-poemby-steven-benson/.

So, I am getting , in “A Place in the Country”,what I feel is a precis of Sebald’s personal and intellectual and professional pre-occupations, which, as Will Self has described, in this article, for the Guardian (2009),gave him an almost doppelganger-esque sense of affinity with the great writer, uncanny yet consoling feelings I have often experienced myselfhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/feb/07/wg-sebald-austerlitz-will-self-fiction.I actually think this collection of “essays”( as well as the the tantalizingly enigmatic and ultimately unprovable insights it gives into Sebald’s personal life),most tightly- be it via what is, semantically, often periphrastic rhizomatic sentence structure and contrapuntal, tangential narratives- elucidates all his thematic pre-occupations, which will become obvious as I proceed through my(post by post) exegesis.And, of course, self-intertextually, Sebald always comes to haunt ONESELF the more and more you read his OWN intra-textual creations; they become part of you, insidiously but beautifully and exquisitely; because, what we have, in his writings as a whole body, and in these essays as a microcosm of his thought:- is a WORLD-VIEW: politics, history, geography, thinly veiled personal memoir, narrative, characterization, intra and inter-textuality and overt citationality, radiant poetry or poetic prose; and they are all, inseperably, interlinked: you cannot, for example, as I will show later, divorce his sentence structure, often, from a mirrorring of his thematic concerns. It is a world-view coloured by his melancholy(primarily engendered by his life circumstances of exile, relationship to his birth-country, embemized by his father); but it is also a world of hope, sometimes only GLIMPSED, through the dark mists he creates, but is there(and I shall show how and where), post by post and essay/author by essay/author……………………….

{a rhizome, pertinently so….I fear that Sebald study(heaven forfend I call it Sebaldiana!) is, perhaps, becoming a bit of an industry, just a bit!; I feel that the academic, hegemonic university structure tends , not always, but TENDS towards competitiveness, as people try(with, I stress GENUINE insights and pathways)to protect their own patch. I hope that we can move EVEN MORE towards a spirit of co-operation, that I see, in, for instance, the blog “Vertigo” and some other Sebald enthusiasts and scholars’ sharing of ideas, with me and others;Sebald is too thematically all-encompasssing, stylistically beautiful and too emotionally rich NOT to cry out for a constant sharing of insights!I hope this is taken in the spirit it is meant: to ENCOURAGE dialogues between academics and relative amateurs, like myself, whose love for this great man’s work is so overwhelming!:)}

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I have written about Sebald’s own introduction to these essays herehttp://decayetude.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/spectral-insubstantialityspectral-psychogeography-sebald-walser-and-melancholy-links-by-steven-benson/

So, what follows is an essay by essay exegesis and commentary on each writer/essay in a seperate post for each(to be continued!)

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
This entry was posted in Birth of reader, life mirrors art, parlous loftiness, psychogeography, queer, Sebald, Uncategorized, working outside hegemonies. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “A SNATCH OF HALF-VANISHED MELODY”; THE CLOSEST GLIMPSE WE HAVE INTO SEBALD’S SOUL ;AND HIS PRE-OCCUPATIONS.RUMINATIONS ON “A PLACE IN THE COUNTRY”(TRANS. CAITLING, 2013).PART 1:TRIPP, AND INTRODUCTION TO MY EXTENDED ESSAY.BY STEVEN BENSON.

  1. decayetude says:

    Just writing up the second instalment !

  2. decayetude says:

    Thanks Diana; hope u enjoy the later instalments!

  3. Pingback: SEBALD’S ATTEMPT AT RESTITUTION; AND LIVING IN THE “UNDERGROUND ZONE”. COMMENTS ON AN OBSCURE SEBALD ESSAY AND MORE ON SANTNER:”ON CREATURELY LIFE”(2006).BY STEVEN BENSON | Decayetude's Blog

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