The Emigrants. Winfried Georg Sebald, Author, Michael Hulse, Translator New Directions Publishing Corporation $ (p) ISBN At first The Emigrants appears simply to document the lives of four Jewish émigrés in the twentieth century. But gradually, as Sebald’s precise, almost dreamlike. A masterwork of W. G. Sebald, now with a gorgeous new cover by the famed designer Peter Mendelsund. The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at .

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At the same time, the book as a whole moves so as to fill us up with detail giving us an increasingly soft-focus rather than clear vision of the truth. The narrator happens upon his house while searching for a room to rent. Sebaldhimself an emigrant for many years, knows how does it feel to live far away from a homeland. Sometimes like a long lost companion and sometimes like an unwelcome guest, they walk the slippery road of our yesteryear excursions and become the unreliable source of bittersweet nostalgia or a perpetual torment.

But the book transcends Holocaust literature, just as it transcends immigrant literature that’s his Uncle Kasimir on the crew that built the Chrysler Building.

They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German people.

On those wanderings, when winter light flooded the deserted street and squares for the few rare hours of real daylight, I never sebale to be amazed by the completeness with which anthracite-coloured Manchester, the city from which industrialization had spread across the entire world, displayed the clearly chronic process of its impoverishment and degradation to anyone who cared to see.

Even if one is lucky in another land, the fear and anxiety remain.

A Review of The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald | The Literary Review

Probably the reason why I have never been to Germany again is that I am afraid to find that this insanity really exists.

The angst, develops from the memory of War in those who have suffered by the hands of it, is the central idea around which the stories of four narrators revolves. You also have problems, because on bad days you don’t trust yourself, either in your first or your second language, and so you feel like a complete halfwit. I may be wrong, but his stories make me suspect that he is writing as a German-non-Jew for an audience of German-non-Jews – the worst types.


That one image tells you more about the history of German-Jewish aspiration than a whole monograph would do. The grown men and women, happy to see emigrajts white face, smiling and waving; some yelling broken words of English, proud of what they knew; proud of their shacks and town of decay; knowing they were lucky to be surrounded such strange beauty.

Germany, and the German people, have managed to scrub all traces of the War, and the abhorrent treatment they administered to the Jews, from their national consciousness: Wertach was a village of about a thousand inhabitants, in a valley covered in snow for five months a year. Two images flashed through my head when reading Sebald’s ‘The Emigrants’.

We see pictures of our characters, of their families, and of the places they went. You’ve said the big events are true while the detail is invented.

The Emigrants

In The Emigrants, published prior to The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz, Sebald tells the separate stories of four characters, each of whom left their home country, and each of whom were damaged in some way. Adelwarth, though lacking a formal education, was highly intelligent, as is demonstrated by how readily he learned a multitude of languages.

Behind Austerlitz hide two or three, or perhaps three-and-a-half, real persons. This only speaks of the everyday. I was aware about his reputation as an esteemed writer but that conveyed only so much and now I know what I was missing all this while. There is self-destruction and a ‘self-impaired, patchy knowledge of the past’ and suddenly its reconstruction becomes important.


Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school emigrqnts, and Great Uncle Ambrose. The narratives can be bleak and heart-wrenching, certainly, but they run eigrants and on – sometimes stalled in a recall of quite impossible detail, then skipping abruptly to another topic. To my mind it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives.

New Directions Publishing Amazon. What did he know? Grayness lowers over the black-and-white photographs scattered throughout the book, as it does over the characters who people it: What brings these people together is their solitude, their alienation in a foreign land, their attempts to find solace in things that grow a counterpoint to the wholesale destruction of the war?

Uncle Kasimir, another member of the family who emigrated to America remembers: View all 13 comments. It preoccupied me all the more when I came to this country [in ], because in Manchester, I realised for the first time that these historical events had happened to real people.


The last word

Similarly destructive to human life have man-made atrocities, emiigrants war and genocide. To my left there were woods; the sun continued to blaze. It was written as she and her husband awaited deportation to the East and death. There are images buried beneath which are discovered in the moonlit reveries. This is one of the saddest books I have ever read. Thanks for telling us about the problem.

WG Sebald: The last interview | Education | The Guardian

The images were there to impart a reality to the narratives, but didn’t they just highlight the murky boundary between fact and fiction? Those who were lucky enough to surv There are some faculties of human mind which have emigrrants haunting human beings since time immemorial, for so less we’ve been able to emigdants about our brain- we might have stepped out of our home to look for other probable homes but the enigma of our mind is still very much elusive for us.

West German literature and the Holocaust. Sebald’s novel doesn’t simply extol people and places that are gone. A quiet desperation permeates almost every page, a slow dissolving into nothingness, a loss of innocence, a disconnect between generations that translates into a decaying present. Selwyn fought in the First World War and has an interest in gardening and tending to animals.

View all 7 comments. There it was, and we somehow had to get our minds around it – which of course we didn’t. I imagine that this is for copyright reasons.

But he approaches his goal obliquely, not describing the Holocaust but treating it as negative space, as a fellow reader so beautifully expressed it. It evokes a deep sense of belonging, a deep seated incomprehensible hatred for some space and memory. When I asked where it was that he felt drawn back to, he told me that at the age of seven he had left a village near Grodno in Lithuania with his family.

They are immensely sad because above all they are about loss – loss of family, home, country and for some, language. When I asked where it was that he felt drawn back to, he told me tha The Emigrants: Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher,