This essay proposes that W. G. Sebald’s distinctive contribution to the global novel is his reordering of the space of representation. This reordering is both literal and metaphorical. It is literal, in the sense that Sebald sets his work within actual spaces: the pages upon which his novels are written as much as the landscape being traversed by his narrator. It is metaphorical, in the sense that Sebald explores a set of imaginary spaces nested within each other: those occupied by his characters, who inhabit several worlds simultaneously, and that allocated to the narrative voice, which speaks to us out of a clearly demarcated yet unlocatable place. The result is not a troubling of the boundary between the real and the fictional, as many of his critics have contended, but a reflection on how the past continues to shape the present, forming the real and imaginative coordinates of our world.
The Roar of the Minotaur: W. G. Sebald’s Echospaces
Stuart Burrows is associate professor of English at Brown University. He is the author of A Familiar Strangeness: American Fiction and the Language of Photography as well as numerous essays. Burrows is currently completing a study of temporality in Henry James titled The Invention of the Present.
Stuart Burrows; The Roar of the Minotaur: W. G. Sebald’s Echospaces. boundary 2 1 August 2020; 47 (3): 61–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8524408
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