Sebald’s Austerlitz and the Great Library: History, Fiction, Memory. Part II

James L. Cowan

Abstract

Researching the claim in Austerlitz that the Bibliothèque nationale de France was built on the site of an internment camp where Jewish prisoners processed goods looted by the Germans during the occupation of Paris reveals the complex problems that arise from Sebald’s practice of fictionalizing his works by deliberately seeding documentary material with distortions and errors. That the camp did exist, but not at the exact site of the library, creates a tension between historical details themselves and the resonance they achieve through the network of cross-relationships and symbolic associations within the literary structure of the work. Furthermore, the historical claims of Austerlitz must be confronted with the historical changes that have occurred since its publication: the growing knowledge about the camp, the urban development in the area surrounding the site of the camp, and its own changing role in preserving the historical memory of the camp. Part I of this article was published in Monatshefte 102.1 (2010), 51–81. (JLC)

This article requires a subscription to view the full text. If you have a subscription you may use the login form below to view the article. Access to this article can also be purchased.

Log in through your institution

Purchase access

You may purchase access to this article. This will require you to create an account if you don't already have one.