W.G. Sebald (著)
In August 1992, W.G. Sebald set off on a walking tour of Suffolk, one of England's least populated and most striking counties. A long project--presumably The Emigrants, his great anatomy of exile, loss, and identity--had left him spent. Initially his tour was a carefree one. Soon, however, Sebald was to happen upon "traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past," in a series of encounters so intense that a year later he found himself in a state of collapse in a Norwich hospital.
The Rings of Saturn is his record of these travels, a phantasmagoria of fragments and memories, fraught with dizzying knowledge and desperation and shadowed by mortality. As in The Emigrants, past and present intermingle: the living come to seem like supernatural apparitions while the dead are vividly present. Exemplary sufferers such as Joseph Conrad and Roger Casement people the author's solitude along with various eccentrics and even an occasional friend. Indeed, one of the most moving chapters concerns his fellow German exile--the writer Michael Hamburger.
"How is it that one perceives oneself in another human being, or, if not oneself, then one's own precursor?" Sebald asks. "The fact that I first passed through British customs thirty-three years after Michael, that I am now thinking of giving up teaching as he did, that I am bent over my writing in Norfolk and he in Suffolk, that we both are distrustful of our work and both suffer from an allergy to alcohol--none of these things are particularly strange. But why it was that on my first visit to Michael's house I instantly felt as if I lived or had once lived there, in every respect precisely as he does, I cannot explain. All I know is that I stood spellbound in his high-ceilinged studio room with its north-facing windows in front of the heavy mahogany bureau at which Michael said he no longer worked because the room was so cold, even in midsummer..."
Sebald seems most struck by those who lived or live quietly in adversity, "the shadow of annihilation" always hanging over them. The appropriately surnamed George Wyndham Le Strange, for example, remained on his vast property in increasing isolation, his life turning into a series of colorful anecdotes. He was "reputed to have been surrounded, in later years, by all manner of feathered creatures: by guinea fowl, pheasants, pigeons and quail, and various kinds of garden and song birds, strutting about him on the floor or flying around in the air. Some said that one summer Le Strange dug a cave in his garden and sat in it day and night like St. Jerome in the desert."
In Sebald's eyes, even the everyday comes to seem extraterrestrial--a vision intensified in Michael Hulse's beautiful rendition. His complex, allusive sentences are encased in several-pages-long paragraphs--style and subject making for painful, exquisite reading. Though most often hypersensitive to human (and animal) suffering and making few concessions to obligatory cheeriness, Sebald is not without humor. At one point, paralyzed by the presence of the past, he admits: "I bought a carton of chips at McDonald's, where I felt like a criminal wanted worldwide as I stood at the brightly lit counter, and ate them as I walked back to my hotel." The Rings of Saturn is a challenging nocturne, and the second of Sebald's four books to appear in English. The excellent news is that his novel Vertigo is already slated for translation. --Kerry Fried
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From Publishers Weekly
As he did so brilliantly in The Emigrants, German author Sebald once again blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction in this meditative work. Sebald's unnamed, traveling narrator is making his way through the county of Suffolk, England, and from there back in time. We learn that he has recently been hospitalized, an event that "marked the beginning of a fissure that has since riven my life." Sunk in his own thoughts, he becomes obsessed with the ubiquitous evidence of disintegration he views in the landscape and history of the small coastal towns, from the moribund herring industry to the lost art of silk production. He spirals deeper into his own considerably learned historical memory to explore, for example, slavery, the Chinese opium wars, Joseph Conrad's life on the high seas and Chateaubriand's memories of estranged love. It comes as no surprise that the "parlous loftiness" of the 17th-century metaphysician Thomas Browne holds particular fascination for our narrator who, like Browne, writes "out of the fullness of his erudition," pursuing his train of thought in sentences "that resemble processions or a funeral cortege in their sheer ceremonial lavishness." Numerous photographs that illustrate the people, places and objects discussed in the text add to the curious beauty of this brooding, elegiac novel.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --このテキストは、 ハードカバー 版に関連付けられています。
陰気で壮麗な魅力十七世紀イギリスにトマス・ブラウンという文人がいた。彼にとって全世界は博物館であり、世界のどんな美も優雅も、死の影につきまとわれている、 と評された、人間の死と葬礼をめぐる異形の散文などの作者。そのブラウンへの言及が、この本の最初と最後にある。ブラウンが全体の枠をなしている。つまり ブラウン流儀の博物館めいた細部への偏執的なこだわりと、生命のない世界への限りない退行の気分とが、枠の中に組みこまれているのである。
形としては一応、語り手がイギリス南東部地帯を巡り歩く旅行記の体裁を取っている。しかしありようは、荒涼とした田舎の風景の中に打ち捨てられ た、かつての大邸宅の残骸（ざんがい）とか、さびれてがらんとしたホテルのある衰え果てた街とか、うらぶれた情景が連なるばかり、その現在の荒廃から自然 に、これまで世界歴史を包んでいた無数の悲惨や恐怖の記憶が、次々によみがえって来る。二度の世界大戦の惨禍を初めとして、至る所でくり返される大量殺 人、独裁者の暴力とこれに対抗する反逆者の暴力その他が、委曲をつくして記述される。それを読むのはさながら、暗い回廊にかけ連ねた、陰気な主題にもかか わらず壮麗な輝きをたたえた絵画を、順番に見ながら歩いているような心地に誘われる経験である。
この作者の特色ともいえるが、他人の作品の章句が格別のことわりなしに引用され、テキストの中に何気なく挿入され、そこから生じる連想が、テキス トの空間を押しひろげ、より広大な展望を用意することがある。ブラウンのほか、ヘルダーリン、コンラッド、ボルヘスなど世界文学の巨星が、その空間の黒い 空に登ってはまた沈んで行く。世の無常を知りつくし、知りつくすが故に移ろうものの一つ一つを、記しとどめずにはいられない。そうした矛盾した衝動が、憂 鬱（ゆううつ）気質の星とされる土星を表題に持つこの散文作品の、不気味な力の源となっている。鈴木仁子訳。
By HUGH ALDERSEY-WILLIAMS
Reviewed by JIM HOLT
The 17th-century English physician and philosopher Sir Thomas Browne was a prolific contributor of novel words to the English language, and an intellectual who had a good-humored skepticism.
Sir Thomas Browne (//; 19 October 1605 – 19 October 1682) was an Englishpolymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric. Browne's writings display a deep curiosity towards the natural world, influenced by the scientific revolution ofBaconian enquiry, while his Christian faith exuded tolerance and goodwill towards humanity in an often intolerant era.
Browne's literary works are permeated by frequent references to Classical and Biblicalsources as well as the idiosyncrasies of his own personality. Although often described as suffering from melancholia, his writings are also characterised by wit and subtle humour, while his literary style is varied, according to genre, resulting in a rich, unique prose which ranges from rough notebook observations to polished Baroque eloquence.
On 14 March 1673, Browne sent a short autobiography to the antiquarian John Aubrey, presumably for Aubrey's collection of Brief Lives, which provides an introduction to his life and writings.
- ...I was born in St Michael's Cheap in London, went to school at Winchester College, then went to Oxford, spent some years in foreign parts, was admitted to be a Socius Honorarius of the College of Physicians in London, Knighted September 1671, when the King Charles II, the Queen and Court came to Norwich. Writ Religio Medici in English, which was since translated into Latin, French, Italian, High and Low Dutch, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Enquiries into Common and Vulgar Errors translated into Dutch four or five years ago. Hydriotaphia, or Urn Buriall. Hortus Cyri, or de Quincunce. Have some miscellaneous tracts which may be published...(Letters 376)