Reading WG Sebald I felt a growing affinity, although not with the man himself – I never met, let alone knew him – nor with humanity in general. Indeed, immersed in Sebald, the inversion of Schopenhauer’s dictum “The more I love mankind, the less I love men” often occurs to me: the more his fictional alter ego reverences individual men and women, the less he seems to love mankind. I couldn’t say exactly what my Sebaldian progression has been: there was reading and then rereading, so that passages from one text interpolated, Russian-doll-like, into another, much as his raconteur characters find their voice in the accents of Sebald’s style. I suspect The Rings of Saturn came first, followed by The Emigrants, followed by Austerlitz. Then I tackled the lectures Sebald gave in Zurich in 1997, published under the title On the Natural History of Destruction. As for Vertigo, until a few weeks ago I had both confused and conflated this with After Nature, and while I had nibbled at the latter, I managed only a morsel. Speaking of Sebald with his (and now my) editor Bill Swainson, I learned of the existence of this other novel – one that Swainson felt would help me with my as yet inchoate theory concerning Sebald’s methodology.

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