Paperback review: Across the Land and the Water, By WG Sebald (trs by Iain Galbraith)

Journey to the centre of the verse

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The Independent Culture

This collection of poetry displays some of the same themes and preoccupations of Sebald's prose works: nature, journeys, borders, memory and literature, and big, unpeopled landscapes.

The poems are quietly elliptical. Sample: "For how hard it is/ to understand the landscape/ as you pass in a train/ from here to there/ and mutely it/ watches you vanish". Often the poems conceal depths under the surface; as Iain Galbraith points out in his introduction, the poem "Somewhere" – "behind Türkenfeld/ a spruce nursery/ a pond in the/ moor on which/ the March ice/ is slowly melting" – takes on a new meaning when one knows that part of the Dachau concentration camp was constructed at Türkenfeld.