That purple piece of silk in the urn of Patroclus—could it mean something?


Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald was already in his fiftieth year, and his third decade of residence in East Anglia, when he began to write of the walk he had taken two years before in the Suffolk country to dispel, he tells us, the strange emptiness which had come to fill him suddenly. Ironically enough, however, the walk soon became distressing as he took in, with ever-growing uneasiness, the traces of destruction reaching far back into the past that locked his gaze wherever he turned. Such was his horror upon return, he would have us believe, that, in due course, he had to be rushed to a hospital in a state of near paralysis. But once there, what the body had lost the mind gained, and before long it was soaring higher and higher with each tilt of the wings to view from above that Suffolk expanse, which, like the Borgesian Aleph, had now shrunk to a single spot, rightly so, devoid of all sensation. And yet, all the eye saw as the mind inscribed the words in its own cell was a colorless patch of sky framed in a window with a black mesh. In time, unable to hold his curiosity any longer, the writer went crawling like Gregor Samsa up to the window, from where peering down at the now utterly alien place, buildings and carparks rose up like fields of rubble or immense boulders to meet him.

more from Aashish Kaul at The Quarterly Conversation here.