Sebald’s hybrid books: how to tell nature and human encroachment

imageMark O’Connel for The New Yorker (“Why you should read G.W.Sebald” December 14, 2011) explains at best the reason why Sebald is an illuminating example of environmental philology. His books “combine memoire, fiction, travelogue, history and biography to create a strange new literary compound”. And how does it work? “He began to write in what he called an elliptical way breaching the supposed boundaries between fact and fiction. Sebald himself sometimes described his work as documentary fiction, which goes some way toward capturing its integration of apparently irreconcilable elements”, such as scientific data and emotive insight into an ecological collapse. Sebald “peregrinatory prose” comes into and occupy “an unsettled disputed territory”, where natural history melts into cultural history. And that also occurs because “the past becomes suddenly present and the present seems mediated by the long passage of years”. As we are about to see, this is exactly what Roberto Saviano explains about Svetlana Alexievic’s approach to reporting.

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