Nick Page

(Im)patience After Sebald

I’ve just received a copy of Patience (After Sebald), a documentary about the famously melancholy German writer W.G. Sebald and the walk through Sufolk which became his book The Rings of Saturn.

Rather inappropriately, given the subject matter, I am very excited.

I love Sebald. I love the sense of humour which lurks beneath the melancholy. I love the obscure details, the invetnted facts and connections. I love the quirky, strange photos which crowd the narrative. the fact that you just can’t categorise his books. Are they novels? Travelogues? Fact or fiction? It all seems to blur.

There is a compelling fascination to his slow-moving prose, with its meticulous observation. I think what I love is that he is almost perpetually sudetracked – or you think that he is. So what starts off as a record of a journey through Suffolk – Southwold, Orford, and the world’s most depressing B&B at Lowetoft – takes you through an entirely unexpected landscape of subjects: Thomas Browne, Joseph Conrad, the origins of the first world war, Roger Casement, the Dowager Empress Tz’u-hsi, Edward Fitzgerald and the holocaust.

He is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. (His novel Austerlitz is over 400 pages long and contains only one paragraph). but there is no-one like him.

I can’t wait to watch it. So while the rest of the family watch The Voice, I shall be watching Patience After Sebald – and reminding myself of a truly unique voice in literature.