The four long narratives in W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants at first appear to be the straightforward biographies of four people in exile: a painter, an elderly Russian, the author's schoolteacher as well as his eccentric great-uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes which lead from Lithuania to London, from Munich to Manchester, from the South German provinces to Switzerland, France, New York, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Along with memories of the Holocaust, he collects documents, diaries, pictures. Each story is illustrated with enigmatic photographs, making The Emigrants seem at times almost like a family album - but of families destroyed. Sebald weaves together variant forms (travelog, biography, autobiography, and historical monograph), combining precise documentary with fictional motifs. As he puts the question to "realism, " the four stories merge gradually into one requiem, overwhelming and indelible.
Translated by: Michael Hulse
Format/pages: paperback / 240 pages
Publisher: New Directions