The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

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"A masterpiece."—Richard Eder, The New York Times.

Published to enormous critical acclaim in the US, The Emigrants has been acclaimed as "one of the best novels to appear since World War II" (Review of Contemporary Fiction) and three times chosen as the 1996 International Book of the Year. The poignant and acclaimed novel about the beauty of lost things, while the protagonist traces the lives of four elderly German/Jewish exiles. The Emigrants is composed of four long narratives which at first appear to be the straightforward accounts of the lives of several Jewish exiles in England, Austria, and America. The narrator literally follows their footsteps, studding each story with photographs and creating the impression that the reader is poring over a family album. But gradually, Sebald's prose, which combines documentary description with almost hallucinatory fiction, exerts a new magic, and the four stories merge into one. Illustrated throughout with enigmatic photographs.

About W. G. Sebald

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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 Literatur Nord Prize. He died in December 2001.From the Hardcover edition.
Published January 1, 1996 by New Directions. 260 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Finally, an encounter with the artist Max Ferber in the decaying English port of Manchester during the narrator's college years prompts him to return much later, when he learns how Ferber escaped from the Nazis but lost his entire family in the Holocaust.

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The New York Times

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It was this curiously unconnected, inconsequential statement, as much as the violent manner of his death, which led me in the years that followed to think more and more about Paul Bereyter, until, in the end, I had to get beyond my own very fond memories of him and discover the story I did not kn...

Mar 30 1997 | Read Full Review of The Emigrants

Suite 101

The Emigrants consists of four separate biographies - linked by each individual's somber struggle against a similar, painful past.

Dec 29 2009 | Read Full Review of The Emigrants


Despite the overlap between these two categories, Meyer takes pains to distinguish them: The first section includes four brief literary texts intended for a book about Corsica, while the second grouping, he writes in his introduction, "illustrates Sebald's other side, as essayist and critic."

Mar 14 2005 | Read Full Review of The Emigrants

London Review of Books

Sebald’s tact – in choosing when to record, and when to invent, and in finding a suitable voice (neither too timid nor too intrusive) in which to register his characters’ pain – informs each of the four discrete episodes.

Jul 22 2010 | Read Full Review of The Emigrants

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