The rings of saturn by W G Sebald

sebald-rings_of_saturn

The rings of Saturn by W G Saturn

German literature

Original title – Die ringe des Saturn

Translator – Michael Hulse

Source – Personnel copy

 

would tell you about the things they put me through
The pain I’ve been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush
The countless feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat
But I think your pulse would start to rush

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

I choose Depeche Mode try walking in my shoes as we all feel we do this in this book

Well week two of German lit month and I finally get to review a book by my all time favourite German writer and the first book by him I read 16 years ago when it came out The rings of Saturn is one of those books you read and go I’ll never forget it and I want to read everything the writer has written at once .Well I did I later decide to leave a few of his lesser books for a later date. I have been meaning to return to reread them but have been held back by a fear of something I love being less on a second reading than it was on the first. So last week I watch Patience (after Sebald) the film by Grant Gee about this book I went well I got read it again Sebald lived in East Anglia at the time he wrote the book. He taught a UEA international Literature.

In august 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end. I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the coast I wonder now, however, whether ther might be something in the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us uner the sign of the Dog Star

Linking dog day to a dog star is great and that is just the opening lines .

So rings of Saturn what is it , it’s not a novel, memoir, travel or biography a Christopher Maclehose said in the Gee film Sebald could be put anywhere in the shop. So rings of Saturn follows Sebald on a walk through East Anglia in his mind as he is taken to hospital. The hospital reminds him of Thomas Browne whose Skull is stored nearby .He is also a link to the two threads in the book Him as a writer he mentions brown a few times through the book and the fact Browne is descended from Silk merchants and Silk is another recurring theme in the book. From the silkworms of china to fish glistening like silk. As he follows the route his mind tells us both of place but also that wonderful knack Sebald has of digersion going off on a tangent inspired by a picture or a place to tell a story of something and somewhere. He also links back into his own past and the dark days of Germany’s years under Nazi rule.

Which the entire herring fisheries threatened to go under, beneath a truly catastrophic glut of herring. It is even said that vast shoals of herring were brought in towards the beaches by the wind and the tides and cast ashore, covering miles of the coast to a depth of two feet and more.The local people were able to salvage only a small portion of these herring harvested in baskets and crates .

I was reminded of the lady I support an old Herring girl, this also brought the image of those bodies drifting on to beaches of refugees I have seen recently on TV.

I often wonder how I would feel after rereading this book would it still be a favourite well the answer to that is yes and more so I feel inspired to go back to vertigo and the emigrants in the next year or so. For me time had served to connect me more with Sebald but also more with the story. In the film he talks to someone about having a friend from the small town of Goch where it is mentioned in connection to a map the man making the film knew someone from there , strangely I have been there as it was very near to Kleve where I lived many moons ago. Then there is Browne I reviewed his Urn Burial here which is one of my most view posts on this blog .Sebald also talks of Roger Casement a man whose connection to places I have been is strange he was converted to a catholic in Rhyl in Wales where my own grand parents lived for a time and then was in Ballymena in Ulster which is where my own Milly came from and I have also reviewed the book by LLosa The dream of the Celt all about Casement. Then there is a picture that Sebald connects to the Holocaust of a river of fish on one of the streets, but to me remind me of a woman I looked after that work as a herring girl following the fishing fleets up and down the coast getting the fish ready .As you see for me this book is about connections Seblads but then as a reader it is easy to connect your own life and books you have read.It is like the map that has been put together of the book following the walk but also connecting out to places mentioned in the book .Sebald maybe best capture how a mind can drift and the interconnections we all make at times.

 

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hastanton
    Nov 09, 2015 @ 09:11:01

    It’s a long time since I read this book but I so loved it . Glad to hear it stands up to a reread ….I will definitely revisit it myself at some point .

    Reply

  2. N@ncy
    Nov 09, 2015 @ 09:28:21

    I was just waiting for a review about Sebald. I have this book and one other on my bookshelf. I keep picking it up and putting it back. Now, it’s time to read the Rings of Saturn. You’ve pushed me over the edge Curious about the title!

    Reply

  3. Max Cairnduff
    Nov 10, 2015 @ 16:53:00

    You make an excellent case for it Stu. I have this but haven’t yet read it, but you’ve definitely pushed it up the TBR pile.

    Reply

  4. roughghosts
    Nov 10, 2015 @ 23:17:55

    I must go back to this one. I did start it a while ago but did not find it as immediately engaging as Vertigo or Emigrants. I just figured it wasn’t the right moment, but it is far from abandoned.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: German Literature Month V: Author Index | Lizzy's Literary Life

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