Cover image for After nature
Title:
After nature
Author:
Sebald, W. G. (Winfried Georg), 1944-2001.
Uniform Title:
Nach der Natur. English
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, 2002.
Physical Description:
116 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Genre:
ISBN:
9780375504853
Format :
Book

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PT2681.E18 N3313 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

After Nature, W. G. Sebald's first literary work, now translated into English by Michael Hamburger, explores the lives of three men connected by their restless questioning of humankind's place in the natural world. From the efforts of each, "an order arises, in places beautiful and comforting, though more cruel, too, than the previous state of ignorance." The first figure is the great German Re-naissance painter Matthias Grünewald. The second is the Enlightenment botanist-explorer Georg Steller, who accompanied Bering to the Arctic. The third is the author himself, who describes his wanderings among landscapes scarred by the wrecked certainties of previous ages. After Nature introduces many of the themes that W. G. Sebald explored in his subsequent books. A haunting vision of the waxing and waning tides of birth and devastation that lie behind and before us, it confirms the author's position as one of the most profound and original writers of our time. From the Hardcover edition.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Alas, Sebald didn't live to see the National Book Critics Circle give him its 2001 fiction award for Austerlitz. At least readers have the consolation of this three-part prose poem, which limns the life journeys of Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald, explorer/botanist Georg Stellar, and Sebald himself. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

...I... Whoever closes the wings of the altar in the Lindenhardt parish church and locks up the carved figures in their casing on the lefthand panel will be met by St. George. Foremost at the picture's edge he stands above the world by a hand's breadth and is about to step over the frame's threshold. Georgius Miles, man with the iron torso, rounded chest of ore, red-golden hair and silver feminine features. The face of the unknown Grünewald emerges again and again in his work as a witness to the snow miracle, a hermit in the desert, a commiserator in the Munich Mocking of Christ. Last of all, in the afternoon light in the Erlangen library, it shines forth from a self-portrait, sketched out in heightened white crayon, later destroyed by an alien hand's pen and wash, as that of a painter aged forty to fifty. Always the same gentleness, the same burden of grief, the same irregularity of the eyes, veiled and sliding sideways down into loneliness. Grünewald's face reappears, too, in a Basel painting by Holbein the Younger of a crowned female saint. These were strangely disguised instances of resemblance, wrote Fraenger whose books were burned by the fascists. Indeed it seemed as though in such works of art men had revered each other like brothers, and often made monuments in each other's image where their paths had crossed. Hence too, at the centre of the Lindenhardt altar's right wing, that troubled gaze upon the youth on the other side of the older man whom, years ago now, on a grey January morning I myself once encountered in the railway station in Bamberg. It is St. Dionysius, his cut-off head under one arm. To him, his chosen guardian who in the midst of life carries his death with him, Grünewald gives the appearance of Riemenschneider, whom twenty years later the Würzburg bishop condemned to the breaking of his hands in the torture cell. Long before that time pain had entered into the pictures. That is the command, knows the painter who on the altar aligns himself with the scant company of the fourteen auxiliary saints. Each of these, the blessed Blasius, Achaz and Eustace; Panthaleon, Aegidius, Cyriax, Christopher and Erasmus and the truly beautiful St. Vitus with the cockerel, each look in different directions without knowing why. The three female saints Barbara, Catherine and Margaret on the other hand hide at the edge of the left panel behind the back of St. George putting together their uniform oriental heads for a conspiracy against the men. The misfortune of saints is their sex, is the terrible separation of the sexes which Grünewald suffered in his own person. The exorcised devil that Cyriax, not only because of the narrow confines, holds raised high as an emblem in the air is a female being and, as a grisaille of Grünewald's in the Frankfurt Städel shows in the most drastic of fashions, derives from Diocletian's epileptic daughter, the misshapen princess Artemia whom Cyriax, as beside him she kneels on the ground, holds tightly leashed with a maniple of his vestments like a dog. Spreading out above them is the branch work of a fig tree with fruit, one of which is entirely hollowed out by insects. Excerpted from After Nature by W. G. Sebald All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.