Monday, 25 November 2013

Time and Memory

Austerlitz. - W. G. Sebald. - Penguin Books

A friend gave me this book to read. He thought that I would enjoy the quiet meditative quality of its prose and its slightly melancholy attachment to time and memory. I did.


The Austerlitz of the story is Jacques Austerlitz who as a five year old is put on a Kinder-transport by his mother, Agáta and sent to England. He is placed with foster parents and brought up by them in a cold Methodist manse in Wales. He becomes Dafydd Elias and his formative identity is erased from him just as unbeknownst to him his parents are being literally erased as a result of die Endlösung. It is only after the death of his foster mother and the mental decline of his foster father that the then teenage schoolboy first discovers his true name.


Slowly, almost imperceptibly half forgotten memories flutter across his memory. He ignores these little signposts of recollection, consciously blanking out what may be his past, but with age he is inexorably drawn backwards to his heritage and the future that was taken from him.


As Sebald so presciently states, time is the executioner of our future. With incessant regularity it slices away at what is yet to come.


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