Top 38 W. G. Sebald Quotes of 2020

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“Going home is not necessarily a wonderful experience. It always comes with a sense of loss and makes you so conscious of the inexorable passage of time.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Where I grew up, in a remote village at the back of a valley, the old still thought the dead needed attending to – a notion so universal, it’s enscribed in all religions. If you didn’t, they might exact revenge upon the living.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I don’t want to talk about my trials and tribulations. Once you reveal even part of what your real problems might be in life, they come back in a deformed way.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I am what I am.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Although I hold a German passport, I feel very much alienated when I’m there.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I came from anonymity, and I will continue to write as a private pursuit.”

― W. G. Sebald

“It would be presumptuous to say writing a book would be a sufficient gesture, but if people were more preoccupied with the past, maybe the events that overwhelm us would be fewer.”

― W. G. Sebald

“It is a sore point, because you do have advantages if you have access to more than one language. You also have problems, because on bad days you don’t trust yourself, either in your first or your second language, and so you feel like a complete halfwit.”

― W. G. Sebald

“A subject which at first glance seems quite removed from the undeclared concern of the book can encapsulate that concern.”

― W. G. Sebald

“People’s ability to forget what they do not want to know, to overlook what is before their eyes, was seldom put to the test better than in Germany at that time.”

― W. G. Sebald

“The moral backbone of literature is about that whole question of memory. To my mind it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I was brought up largely by my grandfather because my father only returned from a prisoner-of-war camp in 1947 and worked in the nearest small town, so I hardly ever saw him.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Until I was 16 or 17, I had heard practically nothing about the history that preceded 1945. Only when we were 17 were we confronted with a documentary film of the opening of the Belsen camp.”

― W. G. Sebald

“You could grow up in Germany in the postwar years without ever meeting a Jewish person. There were small communities in Frankfurt or Berlin, but in a provincial town in south Germany, Jewish people didn’t exist.”

― W. G. Sebald

“To my mind, it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives. But it is something you cannot possibly escape: your psychological make-up is such that you are inclined to look back over your shoulder.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Places seem to me to have some kind of memory, in that they activate memory in those who look at them.”

― W. G. Sebald

“In school I was in the dark room all the time, and I’ve always collected stray photographs; there’s a great deal of memory in them.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I always read the translator’s draft all the way through – a very laborious business.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Occasionally I write a small piece or the odd lecture in English, and I teach in English, but my fiction is always written in German.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Comparing oneself with one’s fellow writers is a bad idea. I would not review a fellow writer unless I had something terribly positive to say.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I’ve always felt that the traditional novel doesn’t give you enough information about the narrator, and I think it’s important to know the point of view from which these tales are told: the moral makeup of the teller.”

― W. G. Sebald

“My parents came from working-class, small-peasant, farm-labourer backgrounds and had made the grade during the fascist years; my father came out of the army as a captain.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Unlike Conrad or Nabokov, I didn’t have circumstances which would have coerced me out of my native tongue altogether.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I’ve always been interested in photographs, collecting them not systematically but randomly. They get lost, then turn up again.”

― W. G. Sebald

“In the history of postwar German writing, for the first 15 or 20 years, people avoided mentioning political persecution – the incarceration and systematic extermination of whole peoples and groups in society. Then, from 1965, this became a preoccupation of writers – not always in an acceptable form.”

― W. G. Sebald

“It must be extremely uncomfortable to live with a writer – all that preoccupation and brooding.”

― W. G. Sebald

“If you’re based in two places, on a bad day you see only the disadvantages everywhere. On a bad day, returning to Germany brings back all kinds of spectres from the past.”

― W. G. Sebald

“England is not very easy to get in and out of.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Up until the 17th century, Germany was far more advanced, but then everything devastated by the 30 Years War began to fall apart… The culture is not innocent.”

― W. G. Sebald

“My father was not really a presence for me. He was away; he was in the German army.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I cannot get over the fact that I was born in 1944. I want to find out as much as I can about that year.”

― W. G. Sebald

“When I was a boy, I’d hide under the kitchen table and wind string around the chairs. I have a sense now that I am pulling on those threads. The more I pull, the more it comes unraveled.”

― W. G. Sebald

“There is a beauty in nature and culture that we no longer have access to. Those things you can’t forget, you embroider… The further you tell, the further you travel from truth, which means, of course, that literature is a lie.”

― W. G. Sebald

“My texts are written like palimpsests. They are written over and over again, until I feel that a kind of metaphysical meaning can be read through the writing.”

― W. G. Sebald

“The longer I carry on, the more difficult writing seems to get.”

― W. G. Sebald

“The writing I do makes great demands on translators.”

― W. G. Sebald

“Mine is a European imagination, shaped largely by my very promiscuous reading in German, French, English and, with greater difficulty, Italian.”

― W. G. Sebald

“I don’t think one can write from a compromised moral position.”

― W. G. Sebald
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