Grant Gee's film Patience opens WG Sebald celebration

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The Independent Culture

When asked why his documentary is called Patience (After Sebald), Grant Gee referred to a moment in WG Sebald's Austerlitz in which a man is seen arranging postcards on a table. "It is as if he is playing a game of patience, as if the right arrangement of images were the key to a trauma."

The film-maker Gee is better known for his music documentaries about Joy Division, Gorillaz and Radiohead (in 1999's Meeting People is Easy). But last weekend his Sebald film opened a celebration at Snape Maltings of the German author, whose Rings of Saturn was occasioned by a long walk on the East Anglia coast. This countryside, famously claimed for Modernism by Benjamin Britten, was the site of the collapse that ended Sebald's ambitious walk, and the car crash that ended his life, on the brink of international fame.

The programme, organised by artsevents and Aldeburgh Music, gathered a variety of artists and writers to explore Sebald's work, and the practice of writing inspired by place. What emerged was the humour of Sebald's work, and its acute attention to the landscape's dark and complex history.

The weekend culminated in a performance by Patti Smith, who was introduced to Sebald by Susan Sontag. She interspersed songs with readings from Sebald's poem "After Nature". One punk stormed out. Smith responded humbly, with empathy, reflecting, when he'd left, that 'everybody needs to excrete'.