The Emigrants by WG Sebald

Those who have this in their libraries will know that it is choicely raved about on the cover. Ondaatje leads the pack ‘This deeply moving book shames most writers with its nerve and tact and wonder’. Nicholas Shakespeare, Anita Brookner, Susan Sontag, Karl Miller all have a stab at bettering that. I might add that the women are both of Jewish background.

But how can I read this, when I picked it up to start, and first saw the words of the dead man who left his library for me to pick through?

In his scathing hand he writes: ‘Empty, silly, meant to appeal to German non-Jews, geographically crippled, useless.’

And under, printed on a laser printer, I think, and tipped into the first page:

Phony postcards and vacuous stories of little relevance (when not totally implausible like that of the compulsive gambler with his ‘visions’ of the winning combinations). 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. I am comforted in my negative judgment by the lyrical comments pasted on the bookcovers by my favourite ass, viz. Mme Sontag.

I don’t know who wrote this. Google search turns up nothing. It can’t be my companion as he would never say anything as circumspect as ‘I may be wrong’.

At any rate, you see why I can’t read it and why I must record the opinion of the now deceased M.F-L.

……Much later after writing the above, I did read a Sebald and liked it a lot. I suppose this means I have to give The Emigrants a fair shot.

One thought on “The Emigrants by WG Sebald

  1. Shame on you. Now I will never again be able to see a photo of Susan Sontag without wondering whose favourite ass she was.

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