charles rangeley-wilson – writing about fishing, travel, rivers, conservation

A Place in the Country

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I have reviewed WG Sebald’s A Place in the Country for Caught by the River. Newly translated by Jo Catling and published by Hamish Hamilton, this book was first published in Germany in 1998, in between The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. More grounded and subtly academic than the works Sebald is best known for, it nevertheless contains stunning passages of prose and is essential reading for anyone interested in his work and his influences.

A Place in the Country.

There is an ironic Sebaldian poignancy to the line in his own introduction to A Place in the Country, first published in Germany in 1998 and now translated for the first time: “This unwavering affection for Hebel, Keller and Walser was what gave me the idea that I should pay my respects to them before, perhaps, it may be too late.” WG Sebald died of an aneurysm in a car crash only three years later, at the age of 57. With Sebald time is never quite a straight line (as indeed it isn’t). The past lives on. The dead were, as he often said, more alive to him than the living. And so, one must suppose, the future might also have been as vivid, known in ways unknown. Certainly Sebald spoke of how, when writing, the material would build in ways that seemed uncannily fortuitous, as if the work already existed and it was only his job to unearth it, to reveal the fiction within the fact, as if he divined his stories as much as he authored them. But however prescient his decision to write essays at the age of 54 to pay respects to the writers who shaped him, A Place in the Country, now that WG Sebald is gone, has become an epitaph for his own literary oeuvre. English readers are lucky indeed that Jo Catling has finally translated Logis in einem Landhaus and that Hamish Hamilton has published it, fifteen years after the work first appeared in German. More …

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