Sebald's books created a kind of new territory for writing - an almost dream-like exploration of memory in which leads us through an expanding landscape in strangely fascinating ways. In this, his first novel, he is just setting off into that territory. His later books become even stronger in that dream-like exploration of memory. I have not read this anywhere, but he touches on memory as Proust does and also the German writer, Walter Benjamin, when Benjamin explores his childhood memories in "Berlin Childhood Around 1900." In "The Emigrants" and "Rings of Saturn", Sebald gained even more confidence and skills, but his first unique way of constructing a narrative is still well worth your time.
Sebald's first novel is a warmup for those to follow, which are perhaps the best novels of the second half of the 20th century.
It's not that Sebald does not write competently or well, but for me it has nothing that lifts it beyond that. There are countless competent writers out there with, more or less, something to say, and this book is barely distinguishable from a million others. Perhaps I had higher expectations than I ought to have had.
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