A Place in the Country by W.G. Sebald

74%

7 Critic Reviews

The opening chapter, on Hebel, is the most forceful, a piece of historical criticism conducted entirely from the armchair (not a seagull in sight).
-Guardian

Synopsis

A Place in the Country is W. G. Sebald’s meditation on the six artists and writers who shaped his creative mind—and the last of this great writer’s major works to be translated into English.
 
This edition includes more than 40 pieces of art, all originally selected by W. G. Sebald.

This extraordinary collection of interlinked essays about place, memory, and creativity captures the inner worlds of five authors and one painter. In his masterly and mysterious style—part critical essay, part memoir—Sebald weaves their lives and art with his own migrations and rise in the literary world.
 
Here are people gifted with talent and courage yet in some cases cursed by fragile and unstable natures, working in countries inhospitable or even hostile to them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is conjured on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion, hiding from his detractors on the island of St. Pierre, where two centuries later Sebald took rooms adjacent to his. Eighteenth-century author Johann Peter Hebel is remembered for his exquisite and delicate nature writing, expressing the eternal balance of both the outside world and human emotions. Writer Gottfried Keller, best known for his 1850 novel Green Henry, is praised for his prescient insights into a Germany where “the gap between self-interest and the common good was growing ever wider.”
 
Sebald compassionately re-creates the ordeals of Eduard Mörike, the nineteenth-century German poet beset by mood swings, depression, and fainting spells in an increasingly shallow society, and Robert Walser, the institutionalized author whose nearly indecipherable scrawls seemed an attempt to “duck down below the level of language and obliterate himself” (and whose physical appearance and year of death mirrored those of Sebald’s grandfather). Finally, Sebald spies a cognizance of death’s inevitability in painter Jan Peter Tripp’s lovingly exact reproductions of life.
 
Featuring the same kinds of suggestive and unexplained illustrations that appear in his masterworks Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, and translated by Sebald’s colleague Jo Catling, A Place in the Country is Sebald’s unforgettable self-portrait as seen through the experiences of others, a glimpse of his own ghosts alongside those of the men who influenced him. It is an essential addition to his stunning body of work.

Praise for A Place in the Country
 
“Measured, solemn, sardonic . . . hypnotic . . . [W. G. Sebald’s] books, which he made out of classics, remain classics for now.”—Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“In Sebald’s writing, everything is connected, everything webbed together by the unseen threads of history, or chance, or fate, or death. The scholarly craft of gathering scattered sources and weaving them into a coherent whole is transformed here into something beautiful and unsettling, elevated into an art of the uncanny—an art that was, in the end, Sebald’s strange and inscrutable gift.”—Slate
 
“Magnificent . . . The multiple layers surrounding each essay are seamless to the point of imperceptibility.”—New York Daily News
 
“Sebald’s most tender and jovial book.”—The Nation

“Reading [A Place in the Country is] like going for a walk with a beautifully talented, deeply passionate novelist from Mars.”—New York


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About W.G. Sebald

See more books from this Author
W. G. Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgäu, Germany, in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland, and Manchester. He taught at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, for thirty years, becoming professor of European literature in 1987, and from 1989 to 1994 was the first director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. His previously translated books-The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, Vertigo, and Austerlitz-have won a number of international awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Berlin Literature Prize, and the LiteraTour Nord Prize. He died in December 2001.Iain Galbraith was born in Glasgow in 1956 and studied modern languages and comparative literature at the universities of Cambridge, Freiburg, and Mainz, where he taught for several years. He has edited works by Stevenson, Hogg, Scott, Boswell, and Conrad, and contributed essays to many books and journals in the U.K., France, and Germany. He is a widely published translator of German-language writing, especially poetry, into English, winning the John Dryden Prize for Literary Translation in 2004.
 
Published February 18, 2014 by Random House. 240 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Place in the Country
All: 7 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Dec 04 2013

The last book published by Sebald receives its first English translation, after it was issued in Europe in 1998. American readers will likely find it illuminating for its insight into the author’s work and its obsessions, themes, and observations on home and exile.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Oct 07 2013

Catling taught with Sebald in the last decade of his life, and her flowing translation pays crucial attention to the prosody and contours of Sebald’s sentences.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Joshua Cohen on Mar 21 2014

“A Place in the Country,” which contains profiles of five writers and one painter, is the third volume of nonfiction Sebaldiana to appear in English, and the most casually generous, not least because it’s the last. It’s fitting that his English posterity ends at the beginning — with literary history, and with influence.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by John Williams on Feb 09 2014

The book’s enthusiasm will likely lead readers to other texts...but its most lasting interest may reside in moments when Sebald’s analysis hints “at an oblique comment on his own style of writing,” as the book’s translator, Jo Catling, says in her foreword.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Leo Robson on Jun 21 2013

The opening chapter, on Hebel, is the most forceful, a piece of historical criticism conducted entirely from the armchair (not a seagull in sight).

Read Full Review of A Place in the Country | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Apr 27 2013

Like many essential writers he was drawn to subjects that helped him explain himself to himself, people who were, like him, subject to the "awful tenacity of those who devote their lives to writing".

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Ángel Gurría-Quintana on Apr 26 2013

This illuminating collection shows a writer at his most inquisitive, gazing deeply under the surface of things and grappling with the difficulties of personal and collective memory.

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