This essay explores the various ways in which W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz upends traditional understandings of the novel as a form. Specifically, it situates this “prose book of an undetermined kind” against the rise of the steel container as the dominant mode of commodity transportation. The novel today is best understood as a shipping container giving refuge to virtually any kind of aesthetic or narrative content. The “stateless” (as opposed to global) novel requires a new model of individualism, a subjectivity embodied in the tragic life of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lingered sans papiers for almost two decades in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The Stateless Novel: Refugees, Literary Form, and the Rise of Containerization
Sina Rahmani earned his PhD from UCLA’s Department of Comparative Literature with a dissertation on the question of orphanhood in the nineteenth-century British novel. He was a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. His work has been published in PMLA, Iranian Studies, Radical History Review, and Public Books. He is the creator of the East Is a Podcast (Eastpodcast.com).
Sina Rahmani; The Stateless Novel: Refugees, Literary Form, and the Rise of Containerization. boundary 2 1 August 2020; 47 (3): 103–132. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8524442
Download citation file: