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British rail katabasis: W.G. sebald's 'day return'
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education, Aesthetics.
2014 (English)In: German Life and Letters, ISSN 0016-8777, E-ISSN 1468-0483, Vol. 67, no 1, 120-137 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article addresses the analogy between language and location, and between travel and interpretation, in the hitherto little-studied poetry ofW.G. Sebald. Its primary example is 'Day Return', a two-part poem from the early 1980s, which describes a train trip through East Anglia to London and back. This poem develops the analogy between language and location in various ways. For one thing, it is a bilingual text: it intersperses a number of English lines among the German ones, evoking the linguistic ambiguity inherent in the experience of the expatriate writer. Moreover, as Sebald's lyrical 'I' passes Ipswich, Romford, Stratford and Maryland on the way to Liverpool Street Station, he weaves these sites together in an intertextual web involving, among others, Dante, Kafka and Samuel Pepys. Finally, the journey is allegorically construed by the poetic voice as a descent into (and return from) the underworld. While many of these themes are familiar from Sebald's later work, the value of his poems does not depend upon their relation to his canonised prose: they are fascinating literary constructs in their own right, deserving of close critical attention.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 67, no 1, 120-137 p.
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-22519DOI: 10.1111/glal.12035ISI: 000331141800009ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84893770745OAI: diva2:699636
Available from: 2014-02-28 Created: 2014-02-28 Last updated: 2014-04-10Bibliographically approved

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