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On the Natural History of Destruction…
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On the Natural History of Destruction (Modern Library Paperbacks) (original 2001; edição 2004)

por W.G. Sebald

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9191417,433 (3.85)19
This title explores the strange silence surrounding the destruction of German cities through Allied bombing - a subject which remained almost entirely out of sight in post-war German writing.
Título:On the Natural History of Destruction (Modern Library Paperbacks)
Autores:W.G. Sebald
Informação:Modern Library (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Colecções:Para ler
Etiquetas:still need to read

Pormenores da obra

On the Natural History of Destruction por W. G. Sebald (2001)

  1. 10
    German Autumn por Stig Dagerman (Mouseear)
    Mouseear: Two rare books on the topic of allied air-bombings of German cities and German post-war suffering. Dagerman is actually one of few foreign witnesses to the conditions immediately after the war mentioned in Sebald's book.
  2. 00
    A History of Bombing por Sven Lindqvist (pellethepoet)
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Had this been reviewed more fairly by my fellow Goodreaders, I probably would have gone up to 3 stars, but instead I find myself thrown into a position of aggression. Had this been written by, e.g., Peter Weiss, not only would it not have x hundred ratings; it wouldn't even have been published. Thankfully for lovers of mildly diverting amateur history and effective literary polemic (i.e., probably not you), it was written by Sebald, and so is not only published, but published in cheap paper-back by a major publishing house. Meanwhile, one third of Peter Weiss's Aesthetics of Resistance, which Sebald praises effusively in the last essay here, has been published by a small university press. So it goes.

The main attraction of this volume is a pair of lectures Sebald gave on the German people's supposed failure to remember and therefore work through the horrific destruction of that country's cities at the end of the second world war--a destruction that will be familiar to anyone interested in now slightly out of favor novels like Slaughterhouse 5. Sebald argument flits back and forth between a number of similar but *not* identical claims:

i) Germans have repressed the destruction of, e.g., Hamburg, and do not remember it at all.

This has the virtues of appealing to what I am told are Sebald's main themes, memory and forgetting. I confess, these are not my favorite themes, but I am saved here because statement i) is blatantly untrue. Sebald modifies it, without *too* much silliness, to

ii) German writers have repressed the destruction of, e.g., Hamburg, and do not write about it at all.

This, too, is untrue, as Sebald admits, and once more alters his statement to

iii) German writers have not repressed the destruction of, e.g., Hamburg, but they have not written about it in a way that satisfies me, W. G. Sebald; that is, they have not written extremely plain descriptions of objects like burnt human limbs.

Please note that Sebald was an infant while the bombing was going on, so he certainly doesn't and can't 'remember' the destruction.

This is really where the argument comes to rest: nobody has written a book about the destruction of the German cities, to which Sebald could, in good conscience, have given five stars on goodreads. That is not much of an argument. The insights it gives into Sebald's aesthetic preferences do not endear him to me, either, since his suggestion is that any 'artistic' representation of this destruction is morally bankrupt, and what is needed is, more or less, the straight facts ma'am. Perhaps among German authors this could seem like a radical statement. To those of us used to Anglo-American 'plainness,' unfortunately, it sounds like a plea for yet more lower journalism.*

There are some nice things at the start and end of this volume. The two lectures are nicely written, and the essay on Peter Weiss (aforementioned) may, I hope, spur publication of Aesthetics of Resistance's second and third thirds. I hope this in part because the essay on Jean Amery was probably behind the recent translation of the work discussed here, on the air war. The first lit-crit essay is a polemic against Alfred Andersch, a writer I'd never heard of, and thanks to Sebald's entirely convincing essay, will probably never read. Of course, that would have been the case without Sebald's essay.

The dark core of the book is Sebald's addendum to his lectures (starting on page 69). I suspect that this is the most Sebaldian part of the book: it flits around the author's uninteresting personal experiences, and the fragments seem, to me at least, to add up to nothing. Unlike the lectures, it is not well written (and/or well translated); rather, it is filled with sentences like "The material in the passages above indicates that attitudes to the realities of a time when urban life in Germany was almost entirely destroyed have been extremely erratic," (91). That might well be very clear in German, but in English it is rebarbatively abstract.

Someone I trust almost entirely tells me that Rings of Saturn is the place to start, and I will give it a shot. But after the disaster of 'Austerlitz' and the feel-good pseudo-criticism of 'On NHD' (aren't you glad that *you* are not guilty of the great sins of not remembering things Sebald says are important, or of writing books Sebald doesn't like?), my patience with W. G. won't hold much longer.

*: There's an interesting, though academic, article to be written comparing Adorno's reaction to the war and the art that comes after it, and Sebald's reaction here. Adorno would argue that this just-the-facts is a mirror of the oppressive world that led to the war. Sebald would argue that modernist formalist is an immoral distortion of people's actual suffering. Note that for Adorno the problem is *social*, and focused on justice; for Sebald the problem is *individualistic* and focused on personal morality. This might explain my distaste for what I've read of WGS so far. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
This posthumous collection is a curious mixture.

The bulk of the book consists of an adapted lecture series on the bombing of German cities, the unprecedented nature of the destruction in cities such as Hamburg and the curious lack of references to it in most German post-war literature. This is powerful, moving and thought provoking.

The remainder of the book is a series of essays on three German writers, none of whom I knew anything about, and although this was interesting in what it said about the culture of the time, it would not inspire me to read any of these writers. The first is Alfred Andersch - who seems comically vain and egotistical, the second is Jean Amery, a Jewish survivor of the camps and the third is Peter Weiss, who was also a painter.

Sebald was always an intriguing writer, but for the most part I don't think this ranks with his best work. ( )
  bodachliath | Apr 3, 2019 |
L'argomento è oltremodo interessante e l'esposizione di Sebald lo rende anche affascinante. E' la storia di un buco nero in una coscienza collettiva - e verrebbe da dire che ben gli sta.
La letteratura si è dimenticata di certa Storia, ma fortunatamente il cinema no, e 'Germania anno zero' di Rossellini è li' per ricordare, a chi ne avesse voglia, la perversione di quei momenti. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Ce livre ne vaudrait-il que par les questions qu'il pose que ce serait déjà suffisant... Mais trouver des réponses c'est autre chose... ( )
  Nikoz | Sep 29, 2014 |
Sebald onderzoekt in 'natuurlijke historie van de verwoesting' waarom de Duitse literatuur zo stil gebleven is over de massale bombardementen van de geallieerden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. De kern van zijn betoog bereikt hij nadat hij beschreven heeft hoe verschillende uit Hamburg gevluchte vrouwen dode kinderen meedroegen in hun bagage:

"misschien wordt het uit zulke brokstukken herinnering begrijpelijk dat onmogelijk gepeild kan worden hoe diep de trauma's zijn in de zielen van hen die aan de epicentra van de ramp zijn ontkomen. Het recht om te zwijgen dat de meesten van hen opeisten is even onaantastbaar als dat van de overlevenden van Hiroshima over wie Kanezaburo Oë in zijn aantekeningen over die stad (1965) schrijft dat velen van hen twintig jaar na de explosie van de bom niet kunnen praten over wat er die dag was gebeurd." ( )
  brver | Mar 30, 2014 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Sebald, W. G.autor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Bell, AntheaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Vigliani, AdaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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The lectures on literature and the air raids of the Second World War in this volume are not printed exactly as I delivered them in the late autumn of 1997. - Foreword
Today it is hard to form an even partly adequate idea of the extent of the devestation suffered by the cities of Germany in the last years of the Second World War, still harder to think about the horrors involved in that devestation.
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