Sebald, who transcends genre, is a writer of phenomenal postcards. He produces word-pictures of folklore, anecdote, and incidental rumination. In this account of a trip from Britain to Italy (via Austria) in 1980 he entwines surveillance — casually it would seem, but not so — until his landscape is so prodigiously rich in insight and detail that there’s no escaping history’s ambiguous charms.
Strictly speaking, Sebald may not be the greatest writer of the second half of the 20th century, but he is by far the most original. He connects Europe’s dots with tenderness, improbably instilling humanity into history and geography.
Sebald, who died in a car crash in 2001, is not for everyone. That said, he can’t be missed. A superlative mind.