2008: 70. The Rings of Saturn

“In August, 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.”

The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald

This was a gift from my dad, who read the complete works of Sebald, and was so impressed that he sent a set on to me.  This was my first, and it was disconcerting, but oh so interesting.  The book is the story of a man’s trip around northern England, but if you didn’t know it was fiction, you’d assume it was all true (and even now its not clear to me what is and isn’t true, which I guess is the point).  There isn’t really a story, though - rather the trip is a framing device around a collection of anecdotes, or mini essays on various topics that drift through the narrator’s mind as he rambles, from a man building a replica of the temple in Jerusalem, to towns that have been washed out to sea.  It is a strange book - doesn’t feel like a novel, as I said, more like a dream.   But it is so interesting - and if you don’t find once section interesting (I found the part on herring to be a bit grim), turn the page and soon you’ve drifted into another world entirely.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure I got it - but I didn’t feel that the emperor had no clothes, either.  I was reminded of Kafka, to some extent, the way things just drifted along to their own internal logic, saying more than the topics themselves might suggest.  I’m intrigued, and look forward to more Sebald.


Date/Place Completed: 4/26/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017