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

Journey to the centre of the verse

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.

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