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Austerlitz

by W G Sebald

Don't expect an account of Napoleon's famous 1805 victory, though the echoes of totalitarian empire are intended. This sombre book appears rambling at first, but gradually the story of a quest for a displaced identity begins to emerge. Every delicate, precise discourse on moths or buildings counts - nothing is accidental, including the many photographs which illuminate the text and act as breaks - there are no paragraphs or chapters.





Extract

I looked down the main street, still wet with rain, and saw the grand hotels ranged in a semi-circle rising to the heights, the Pacifik, the Atlantic, the Metropole, the Polonia and Bohemia with their rows of balconies, their corner turrets and roof ridges emerging from the mist like ocean-going steamers from a dark sea. At some time in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life.


Translated by Anthea Bell

Parallels

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Musee des Beaux Arts - poem by W H Auden
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
 

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