W.G. SEBALD Biography - Writers


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W.G. Sebald                                                                               
Born May 18, 1944                                                                         
Wertach im Allgu, Germany                                                                 
Died December 14, 2001                                                                   
Norfolk, United Kingdom                                                                   
Occupation writer, academic                                                               
Influences Borges, Benjamin, others                                                       
Winfred Georg Maximilian Sebald (May 18, 1944, Wertach im Allgu - December               
14, 2001, Norfolk, United Kingdom) was a German writer and academic. At the time         
of his early death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics         
as one of the greatest living authors, and had been tipped as a possible future           
winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature - in a 2007 interview the secretary of           
the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl, stated Sebald as one of three newly                 
deceased writers who would have been worthy laureates.                                   
Sebald grew up in Wertach Bavaria, one of four children of Rosa and Georg Sebald.         
From 1948 to 1963 he lived in Sonthofen. His father joined the Reichswehr in             
1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis. His father remained a                 
detached figure, a prisoner of war until 1947; a grandfather was the most                 
important male presence in his early years. He was shown images of the Holocaust         
whilst at school in Oberstdorf and recalled that no one knew how to explain what         
they had just seen. The Holocaust and post-war Germany loomed large in Sebald's           
Sebald studied literature at the universities of Freiburg, Germany, Fribourg,             
Switzerland and Manchester. He became an assistant lecturer at the University of         
Manchester in 1966 and settled in England permanently in 1970, joining the               
University of East Anglia (UEA). In 1987, he was appointed to a chair of German           
literature at UEA and, in 1989, became the founding director of the British               
Centre for Literary Translation. He lived at Wymondham and Poringland whilst at           
the UEA.                                                                                 
Sebald died in a car crash in 2001. He was driving together with his daughter,           
Anna, who survived the crash. He had married Ute in 1967. He is buried in St.             
Andrew's churchyard in Framingham Earl, close to where he lived.                         
Sebald's works are largely concerned with the theme of memory, both personal and         
collective. They were in particular attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal         
in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the         
German people. In On the Natural History of Destruction he wrote a major essay           
on the wartime bombing of German cities, and the absence in German writing of             
any real response. His concern with the Holocaust is expressed in several books           
delicately tracing his own biographical connections with Jews.                           
His distinctive and innovative novels were written in German, but are well-known         
in excellent English translations which he supervised closely. They include               
Austerlitz, The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, and Vertigo. They are notable             
for their curious and wide-ranging mixture of fact (or apparent fact),                   
recollection and fiction, often punctuated by indistinct black-and-white                 
photographs, which are set in evocative counterpoint to the narrative rather             
than illustrating it directly. All of his novels are presented as observations           
and recollections made by Sebald while travelling around parts of Europe. They           
include a dry, mischievous sense of humour.                                               
Sebald is also the author of three books of poetry: For Years Now (2001), After           
Nature (2002), and The Unrecounted (2004).