The Emigrants

By W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse (translator),

Book cover of The Emigrants

Book description

The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at first to be the straightforward biographies of four Germans in exile. Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher, and Great Uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes of exile which lead from…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Emigrants as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

One of the most original books I have ever read, and as such impossible to classify by genrea dizzying mix of memoir, history, and travel writing. As the separate stories of four apparently unrelated individuals unfold, Sebald exposes a common theme: the loss of identity through trauma and displacement. The stories are devastating and yet there is something hopeful in Sebald’s melancholic and vivid writing, the powerful case he makes for these stories being heard.

From Edward's list on loss and discovery.

Part of Sebald’s value (or the value of his project) is his deep exploration of German guilt, societally after World War II and in his father’s Wehrmacht service. Often, this guilt is explored through the self, in the associative vines that have him examine art, architecture, and history, to name only a few of the digressions one might encounter in all his worthwhile books. The explicit focus, as it were, of the Emigrants is on four uprooted Germans. It’s the saddest of his novels in my mind thanks to this displacement and the characters the reader comes to know.

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