A narrator that is and is not Sebald takes a walking tour of the coast of Suffolk, but what we mostly receive of it are his serious meditations on Sir Thomas Browne's Urn Burial (and Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson"), holiday towns in desrepair, the fate of war dead remains on forgotten battlegrounds, the cultivation of silkworms, the legacy of Roger Casement, and much more as he, ghostlike, glides along the coast. Filed w/ allusive, often spectral photographs, Mark O'Conner has commented in The New Yorker that within Sebald's elliptical prose are stirring narratives of "shame and historical occlusion." This is a work beyond the plotted narrative, but it features a treasurable voice of moral inquiry and historical consciousness that won't soon be surpassed.
"The book is like a dream you want to last forever" (Roberta Silman, The New York Times Book Review), now with a gorgeous new cover by the famed designer Peter Mendelsund
A masterwork of W. G. Sebald, now with a gorgeous new cover by the famed designer Peter Mendelsund
The Rings of Saturn—with its curious archive of photographs—records a walking tour of the eastern coast of England. A few of the things which cross the path and mind of its narrator (who both is and is not Sebald) are lonely eccentrics, Sir Thomas Browne’s skull, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, recession-hit seaside towns, wooded hills, Joseph Conrad, Rembrandt’s "Anatomy Lesson," the natural history of the herring, the massive bombings of WWII, the dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, and the silk industry in Norwich. W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants (New Directions, 1996) was hailed by Susan Sontag as an "astonishing masterpiece perfect while being unlike any book one has ever read." It was "one of the great books of the last few years," noted Michael Ondaatje, who now acclaims The Rings of Saturn "an even more inventive work than its predecessor, The Emigrants."
About the Author
W. G. Sebald was born in Germany in 1944 and died in 2001. He is the author of The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo, Austerlitz, After Nature, On the Natural History of Destruction, Unrecounted and Campo Santo.
Michael Hulse is an English translator, critic, and poet. Hulse has translated more than sixty books from the German.
Sebald has done what every writer dreams of doing. The Rings of Saturn glows with the radiance and resilience of the human spirit.
— Roberta Silman
Out of exquisitely attuned feeling for the past, Sebald fashioned an entirely new form of literature. I've read his books countless times trying to understand how he did it. In the end, I can only say that he practiced a kind of magic born out of almost supernatural sensitivity. — Nicole Krauss
He is an addiction, and, once button-holed by his books, you have neither the wish nor the will to tear yourself away. — Anthony Lane
An extraordinary palimpsest of nature, human, and literary history. — Merle Rubin
In Sebald's writing, everything is connected, everything webbed together by the unseen threads of history, or chance, or fate, or death... beautiful and unsettling, elevated into an art of the uncanny—an art that was, in the end, Sebald's strange and inscrutable gift.
Think of W.G. Sebald as memory's Einstein. — Richard Eder
This is very beautiful, and its strangeness is what is beautiful... One of the most mysteriously sublime of contemporary writers. And here, in The Rings of Saturn, is a book more uncanny than The Emigrants.
— James Wood
Sublime. — Cynthia Ozick
The first thing to be said about W. G. Sebald's books is that they always had a posthumous quality to them. He wrote—as was often remarked—like a ghost. He was one of the most innovative writers of the late twentieth century, and yet part of this originality derived from the way his prose felt exhumed from the nineteenth. — Geoff Dyer
Few writers have traveled as quickly from obscurity to the sort of renown that yields an adjective as quickly as German writer W. G. Sebald (1944 - 2001), and now Sebaldian is as evocative as Kafkaesque. Sebald is that rare being: an inimitable stylist who creates extraordinary sentences that, like crystals, simultaneously refract and magnify meaning.
Ostensibly a record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia, The Rings of Saturn is also a brilliantly allusive study of England's imperial past and the nature of decline and fall, of loss and decay. The Rings of Saturn is exhilaratingly, you might say hypnotically, readable. It is hard to imagine a stranger or more compelling work.