n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - Sebalds Sprache

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1273



One feature of recent Sebald criticism is the search for stylistic models and influences which, following the cues given by the author himself, has emphasised mostly German and Austrian writers of the 19th century. It would appear that one of the challenges perceived by Sebald was that of finding an own, distinctive voice for himself. An analysis of his unusual and seemingly anachronistic syntax - particularly striking in Austerlitz - leads one to his deliberate attempt at creating a close correspondence between his tortuous sentences and the meticulous and detailed records kept by the SS and other German forces involved in the Holocaust, as a response to the enormity of the crimes involved. Interestingly, if there is an identifiable source of Sebald's prose style, especially in Austerlitz, it would seem to be the peculiar preference in the writings of Thomas Bernhard for long-winded sentences, the absence of chapters or paragraphs and the protracted use of reported speech.

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