So after having Sebald's book on the nightstand for months, I finally built up some momentum and finished it. Sebald is a remarkably idiosyncratic writer. A lot of back cover blurbs compare him to Kafka, and I can see a certain resemblance, but he truly is a unique voice. I had read Rings of Saturn based on the recommendation of D. and I really enjoyed it, and hence bught Austerlitz.
Sebald is definitely the persistance of modernism. I enjoyed his take on the evaporation of meaning that, for Europeans especially, is epitomized by the Holocaust. In Austerlitz, this emptiness pervades the contemporary landscape of London, Paris, Prague and by extension, all of Europe. The rationalization that lead to the Jewish ghettos and Auschwitz is mirrored in the Bibliotheque Nationale. The German precision of the map of Theresienstadt ghetto, described in psuedo multisyllabic congomes characteristic of the German language, echoes in the impeneterable bureacratic complexity of the library where the main character eventually abandons the search for facts about his father, relying, instead, on the power of his imagination, essentially seeking out the irrational where the rational not only fails but violently erases.
Another thing to love about Sebald are the photographs, the empty windows and shuttered doors of Terezin, the haunting image of the documents room for Theresienstadt--20 foot walls completely lined with small 18 inch cubes, each filled with files documenting the history of the ghetto. In the middle, a sparse table and four chairs. On the wall, a clock. The picture awesomely captures the stark banality of evil--the meticulous reduction of a tragedy into line items, records, tables, functions, sums, and subtractions.