Shortlisted for the 1998 Los Angeles Times Book Award in Fiction: "Stunning and strange . . . Sebald has done what every writer dreams of doing. . . . The book is like a dream you want to last forever. . . . It glows with the radiance and resilience of the human spirit."—Roberta Silman, The New York Times Book Review
The Rings of Saturn, with its curious archive of photographs, records a walking tour of the eastern coast of England. A few of the things that cross the path and mind of its narrator (who both is and is not Sebald) are lonely eccentrics. Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson", the natural history of the herring, Borges, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, Sir Thomas Browne's skull, recession-hit seaside towns, Joseph Conrad, the once-thriving silk industry of Norwich, Swinburne, the dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, and the massive bombings of WWII.
Mesmerized by the mutability of all things, the narrator catalogs the transmigration of whole worlds: "On every new thing, there lies already the shadow of annihilation."
About the Author
W. G. Sebald was born in Germany in 1944 and died in 2001. He is the author of The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo, Austerlitz, After Nature, On the Natural History of Destruction, Unrecounted and Campo Santo.
Michael Hulse is an English translator, critic, and poet. Hulse has translated more than sixty books from the German.
The book is like a dream you want to last translation from the German seems little short of miraculous. The book is so natural and accessible, and yet so odd, that one is left enchanted and also curious about the author, who presents such a prodigious mass of material in such a modest and engaging way. As you read along, and as you become an active participant in the unfolding of this book. — Roberta Silman - The New York Times
This German who has lived in England for over thirty years is one of the most mysteriously sublime of contemporary writers. . . . And here, in The Rings of Saturn, is a book more uncanny than The Emigrants.
— James Woods - The New Republic
Sebald has been writing what I give the unpromising name the
documentary novel, in which subject matter becomes character. A future
critic with considerably more time and space will find Anglia. Seen
from above, his footsteps will describe, like the good detective he is,
the outline of a body that has many times been ferried away, the body
we call civilization. From these fading contours left upon the land, we
Lilliputians are left to ponder the shape of what came yesterday, or
centuries before. to such puzzling terrain, is indispensable. — American Book Review
Sebald depicts a landscape that is fascinating and disturbing, a world
whose minute differences from the actual is a bit of virtuoso reality.
If I might be so bold as to sum up his work in one sentence, it is
this: Time always wins, but offers as a consolation and booby prize,
Memory. Thus the futility of existence is partially erased by both the
grandeur and inability of our imaginations. We can dream. And somewhere
in those dreams, reality is defeated. — The Iconoclast
He is the most hypnotic and exhilarating author. Lyrical and genius. No one like him. — Maira Kalman - Museums New York
Like his much praised novel The Emigrants, this new work by Sebald is steeped in melancholy.... Erudition of this sort is too rare in American fiction, but the hypnotic appeal here has as much to do with Sebalds deft portrait of the subtle, complex relations between individual experience and the rich human firmament that gives it meaning as it does with his remarkable mastery of history.
— Kirkus Reviews
As he did so brilliantly in The Emigrants, German author Sebald once again blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction in traveling narrator is making his way through the county of Suffolk, England, and from there back in time.
— Publishers Weekly
[A]lways clear and present—always ringing true, not necessarily comfortable but not easily forgotten. — Marilis Hornidge - Courier-Gazette [Maine]
[A]n extraordinary palimpsest of nature, human, and literary history. — Merle Rubin - The Wall Street Journal
One of 'Five Best [of the year].' Historical fiction of the first rank. — Rebecca Stott - The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires
It is full of wonderfully rendered scenes…. Full of insight and beauty…. Tragic, yet beautiful. — Trevor Berrett - The Mookse and the Gripes