On the Natural History of Destruction
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During World War Two, 131 German cities and towns were targeted by Allied bombs, a good number almost entirely flattened. Six hundred thousand German civilians died a figure twice that of all American war casualties. Seven and a half million Germans were left homeless. Given the astonishing scope of the devastation, W. G. Sebald asks, why does the subject occupy so little space in Germany s cultural memory? On the Natural History of Destruction probes deeply into this ominous silence."

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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 129.54 x 200.66 x 12.7mm | 136.08g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Modern Library Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • PHOTOS THROUGHOUT
  • 0375756574
  • 9780375756573
  • 53,606

About Winfried Georg Sebald

W.G. Sebald taught at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, for thirty years, becoming Professor of European Literature in 1987. His books won several international awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Berlin Literature Prize. He died at age 57 in 2001.

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Flap copy

During World War Two, 131 German cities and towns were targeted by Allied bombs, a good number almost entirely flattened. Six hundred thousand German civilians died--a figure twice that of all American war casualties. Seven and a half million Germans were left homeless. Given the astonishing scope of the devastation, W. G. Sebald asks, why does the subject occupy so little space in Germany's cultural memory? On the Natural History of Destruction probes deeply into this ominous silence.

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Review quote

"Most writers, even good ones, write of what can be written. . . . The very greatest write of what cannot be written. . . . I think of Akhmatova and Primo Levi, for example, and of W. G. Sebald." " --The New York Times ""[Sebald] is writing about what he regards as a disquieting refusal to face facts--not only about what was done to the nation, but by implication, by the nation. . . . No better future for humankind is possible if we do less than look upon the crimes of our past, and their catastrophic results, with 'a steadfast gaze.'" --"The Boston Sunday Globe ""This may well be the last of Sebald's writing we'll ever have, so how amazing--and fitting--it is that it seems, in a fashion as uncanny as his prose and perceptions could often be, to close the circle of the ruminations that preoccupied his writing life." --"The Washington Post ""Sebald approaches his subject with sensitivity, yet avoids neither descriptions of horrible carnage nor criticism of writers too preoccupied with absolving themselves of blame to faithfully portray a destroyed Germany. The result is a balanced explication of devastation and denial, and a beautiful coda for Sebald." "--Booklist ""The secret of Sebald's appeal is that he saw himself in what now seems almost an old-fashioned way as a voice of conscience, someone who remembers injustice, who speaks for those who can no longer speak." "--The New York Review of Books "

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Customer reviews

It might seem like the ultimate exercise in dilettantism to ask why the Bomber War's destruction hasn't found a niche for itself in German postwar literature, but Sebald uses it as an approach not only to German literature but German culture both pre-war and post. He suggests that the literary tradition that culminated in Wagner's Gotterdammerung (sorry, umlauts not available) had already put in the German mind the idea of fiery and complete destruction--a postwar literary attempt to come to grips with the effects of the Allied bombing campaign was unnecessary. This leads in turn to thoughts of whether this older tradition wasn't in some way embodied in Nazi culture as an ideal.show more
by Danielle Lewis