I just finished reading Vertigo, by W G Sebald. I was sent this as a christmas present by my aunt, who always sends really interesting books as gifts. Which I certainly can’t complain about. In one of thos odd twists, I’d never heard of this author. The day I received it, I followed a link trail on Salon to this review of the book (which being the type of person that I am, I did not read until this morning, post-completion of novel). The next day, I read his obituary in the Guardian. All very odd.
More to the point of this, is just how wonderful this book is. So much of echoed true in my brain, although in form with the book itself, I’m no longer sure if I experiences that whilst reading, or simply in my memory of reading it. And that distinction forms a critical idea of the novel, the split between experience, memory of experience and longing for experience. The fleeting, emotional, ephemeral nature of memory is explored throughout the novel as the narrator follows the trails that Stendahl as he researches and writes de l’Amour, or Kafka as he spends his last days at Riva, then finally to retracing his own steps as he returns to his homeland. Mixed in with various photographs, scribbles, train tickets, menus, etc, the book has a very ‘real’, very ‘documentary’ feel. I admit falling into the narrator-is-author trap for a little while, until I noticed the little ‘fiction’ written on the spine of the book, which then freed me up to think a little more about this book – these memories of ‘real’ writers, written by a fictional researcher – these articles of truth that exist throughout the narrative – some are ‘true’, in that they are artifacts of the writers whose steps the narrator follows, while others are fabrications – artifacts of the narrators journey.
Anyhoo. Read the book.