As elsewhere, one of my guides here is W. G. Sebald, who performed this task with a kind of relentlessness that is as stunning as it is deeply sad. The unnamed subject of each of Sebald’s books is, by his own admission, the concentration camps, and yet, with a few exceptions, he touches on them so lightly that you could be lulled, by his long, languorous sentences, into thinking the books were about something else: herring, say, or the rise of the Dowager Empress. That they are not is a function of a very Sebaldian principle: atrocity needs no exaggeration. If you look closely enough you see how it saturates all that surrounds it, drawing the energy of the world into its deep and abhorrent abyss. But lightness, in Sebald and elsewhere, provides more than a cover. Lightness is a strategy, much as I distrust that word. It is a method for dealing with and channeling other energies.
more from Erik Anderson at the LA Review of Books here.