W. G. Sebald is one of the most original and significant authors of the twentieth century, but these credentials only make The Rings of Saturn that much more disappointing. In his other novels, Sebald’s drift between landscapes and encyclopedic fragments emerged out of a deep necessity and constituted an ingenious literary innovation. But here this style exists in a void. When an author becomes enslaved to his own style, when form is empty of content, the result is not merely boring. In his previous books, Sebald was a great writer of the German trauma, but in The Rings of Saturn he makes that national trauma banal.

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