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.

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