Austerlitz:by W.G. Sebald: Translated by Anthea Bell: published by random House, NY 2001
"Austerlitz", the story of a young boy sent from Czechoslowakia to Wales by the Children's Transport (KinderTransport) of 1939, my be an attempt by the author, a German, to expiate the past by revealing it through the eyes of an orphan searching for his parents. Brought up by an austere minister and his even more withdrawn wife, Austerlitz does not find out that his name is not Dayffyd Elias until he is in the upper grades.
He does not seek to find out his origins until he suffers a breakdown when a French woman with whom he is in love.
In the novel which ranges over the cities of Brussels, Paris, London and Prague during the years from 1967 to the present, Sebald alternates lyrical scenes of late childhood spent on the tropical western coat of Wales with dark descriptions of conditions in a concentration camp where Austerlitz's young, musical mother perishes.
Ironically, with his painstaking documentation of possessions taken from victims, Sebald, who displays a virtuosic eye for detail, echoes the style of the Nazi despoilers who mercilessly laid out conditions for ghettos and deathcamps.
The novel ends inconclusively as the narrator returns to Fort Breedonk on the outskirts of Brussels where the Nazis annihilated more than 30,000 souls during the war.
With "Austerlitz", Sebald completed a series of four novels, receiving such acclaim that he was thought to be a future candidate for the Nobel Prize. Tragically, he died in an automobile accident , December 15, 2001.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson