Monday, 31 January 2011
I had the opportunity to chat briefly to two of the organisers (ArtEvents) of the W G Sebald book event at Aldeburgh yesterday. The final part of the event was a short boat ride across to the former nuclear research establishment at Orford Ness and a two hour walk there in the footsteps of WGS. ArtEvents have offered to visit Moffat at the end of Feb to exchange ideas on a followup event for MBE after our 'vintage' party on April 16. What people are looking for, they said, are ideas. ArtEvents are in the middle of a three year project 'Re-enchantment' which comprises books, films and symposia, on the theme of people and place UK-wide. There was a journalist covering the event for US magazine Harper's on the walk, and we discussed the pronounciation of 'scone'. I should have invited him to our 1930's-style tea! He, Damion Searls, is a writer and translator from four or five European languages, and his article will herald the publication of the last posthumously published work of WGS. Next month, Aldeburgh has its own book festival, run by the bookshop owner who I hope to touch base with this morning for tips. On WGS himself: I now know how to pronounce his name ('Zaybalt') and am far clearer about the nature of his genius, which was to evolve a style now known as 'Sebaldian' with as its principal theme the weight of history, and in particular the Holocaust, on the psyche. His mature work is instantly recognisable: a complex mix of fact and fiction (on of the most shocking 'facts' in the Rings of Saturn may not be true; other episodes - the walk itself which gives the book structure - may have been invented )illustrated by his trademark grainy black and white photographs without captions. I leave Aldeburgh today revived in mind and body and very optimistic about the future, including prospects for our own Moffat Book Event.