"Vertigo", a novel by the German writer, W.G. Sebald, traces the lives and feeling of three literary figures: Casanova, Stendhal, and Kafka. His journeys take him over the Alps from Vienna to Venice and Verona as he assumes the personal of thes historical characters, bringing their impressions and experiences to live.
Sebald also recounts his own travels to Italy where, in one of his side riffs, he admires the frescoes of Giotto. Overwhelmed by the painted angels who"have kept their station above our endless calamities for nigh onto seven centures", he asks,"...Is not the whiteness of their wings the most wondrous of all things...ever conceived?"
Surreal re-enactments of Kafka's love affair on Lake Garda segue into the final chapter of the novel where Sebald visits "W", the village of his childhood to relive the events of thirty years before.
The accidental death of Schlag, the hunter of superhuman strenth, who mysteriously fall in a ravine, plunges the youth into a bout of diptheria from which he barely recovers.
The writer returns to his present home in England where
he suffers again the paralysing depression which prevents him from descending the steps to a subway station to free himself from his long, aimless walks. He concludes the novel with a quote from Pepys' diary, describing the great fire of London, perhaps foreshadowing the catastrophe that engulfed Europe 300 years later.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson