Posts Tagged ‘Austerlitz’

Quotes I’ve Loved, 2014

“…I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my life could be chunked with a book.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

“…to this day there is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in traveling, which is why whenever we come home from somewhere we never feel quite sure if we have really been abroad.”
– W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

“Darkness does not lift but becomes heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.”
– W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

“Although I had no regrets, I told myself sadly, that growing up was not the painless process one would have thought it to be.”
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

“The twenties are as frenetic a decade as the teens. You have a voice inside your head repeating I want, I want, I want,  but you don’t know what you want or how to get it. You hardly know who you are. You go on instinct. And your instinct mostly pushes you toward adventures you won’t grasp until you look back on them. Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward, some sage once said.”
– Erica Jongafterword, Fear of Flying

“What you imagine is what you remember, and what you remember is what you’re left with. So why not decide to imagine it a little differently?”
– Jennifer Dubois, A Partial History of Lost Causes

“‘Louis XVI was executed because they considered him to be a criminal, and a year later his judges were killed too for something. What is wrong? What is right? What must one love, what must one hate? What is life for, and what am I? What is life? What is death? What force controls it all?’ he asked himself. And there was no answer to one of these questions, except one illogical reply that was in no way an answer to any of them. That reply was: ‘One dies and it’s all over. One dies and finds it all out or ceases asking.’ But dying too was terrible.”
– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
– James Joyce, Ulysses

“By eight Greg and I were in Truckee. By eleven we were still standing on the hot side of the road trying to hitch a ride to Sierra City.
‘HEY!’ I yelled maniacally at a VW bus as it whizzed past. We’d been snubbed by at least six of them over the past couple of hours. Not being picked up by those who drove VW buses made me particularly indignant. ‘Fucking hippies,’ I said to Greg.
‘I thought you were a hippy,’ he said.
‘I am. Kind of. But only a little bit.'”
– Cheryl Strayed, Wild

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
– Cheryl Strayed, Wild

“I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

“Knowing too much about other people puts you in their power, they have a chain on you, you are forced to understand their reasons for doing things and then you are weakened.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

“Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
– Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

“I’ve had the sort of day that would make Saint Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
– Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

“Works that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that very reason — or at least they appeal to certain types of people. [. . .] You discover something about that work that tugs at your heart — or maybe we should say the work discovers you.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

“You’re afraid of imagination. And even more afraid of dreams. Afraid of the responsibility that begins in dreams. But you have to sleep, and dreams are a part of sleep. When you’re awake you can suppress imagination. But you can’t suppress dreams.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Book #83: Austerlitz

W.G. Sebold’s Austerlitz blindsided me.

I’d been looking forward to reading it for several years. I knew it dealt, somewhat, with the Holocaust, Jews, and memory. It shouldn’t be any secret by now that I’m pretty interested in those things. I’d heard great things about Austerlitz and was really looking forward to a little meditation on memory and a very artistically-written book.

I was not expecting a book chock-full of memory and nostalgia wherein the storyteller spends most of the time recounting his attempt to rediscover is completely forgotten past in PragueAnd there were pictures.

I wanted to enjoy Austerlitz. I did. But reading it was a chore. The writing was beautiful, the story was good, the conflict was painful and real. But I think the vivid descriptions of Prague were distracting. Often I knew exactly what Austerlitz was talking about when he described strange Czech quirks or oddities characteristic of Prague. Several times I knew where he was talking about, even when it wasn’t a “touristy” part of Prague. If I read this a year ago, when I was living in Prague, I would have adored it. I would have tried to find everywhere he mentioned. I would have gone to such-and-such street to see if there really was a certain store there. I would’ve walked around Malostranská and the islands on the Vltava that he mentioned. I would have gone to the parks he mentions frequenting.

If I’d read this book in a few years, when I’m more removed from my time in Prague, it would have been fine. I would have read it as it was meant to be read, but it would have had an added sweetness, because I also would have been looking back on Prague and meditating on things.

But reading it now, when every other day I miss Prague and regret leaving? Torture. Especially since Austerlitz is remembering a life he briefly lived and thinking about the life he would have had if he hadn’t left. I couldn’t get around myself enough to get to the point of the novel, which is a shame, because I’m sure I would have really appreciated Austerlitz if I hadn’t been too focused on the PRAGUE!!! part of it.

I think I’m going to add this to the list of books I need to revisit in five to ten years. It was very much “too soon.”

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Glass Bead Game

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