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The Grammar of IdentityTransnational Fiction and the Nature of the Boundary$
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Stephen Clingman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278497

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278497.001.0001

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W. G. Sebald

(p.167) 5 Transfiction
The Grammar of Identity

Stephen Clingman

Oxford University Press

W. G. Sebald is one of the most remarkable of writers, who shows the link between transnational fiction, trauma, and complicity. For him the point of origin and horizon is the Holocaust, for which, as a German writer transplanted to England, he feels a particular resonance and responsibility. In his case the origins of the transnational lie in the crimes of the national, and all his writing takes the form of an unending search governed by linkage, metonymy, navigation. The chapter considers four of his works, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz, focusing on particular patterns: Sebald's specific version of the uncanny; the form of his writing as transfiction; the metonymic-I; the ethics of approach and narrative transmission. Along the way we meet key figures: Kafka, Wittgenstein, Freud, Conrad. Sebald's writing is a profound meditation on the nature of the boundary, a philosophy of contiguity as journey.

Keywords:   Austerlitz, ethics of approach, Holocaust, metonymy, nature of the boundary, The Rings of Saturn, Sebald, transnational fiction, transfiction, uncanny

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