Framing the Past: Photography in the Novels of W.G. Sebald Webpage uri icon


  • In the authors photograph on the dust-jacket of his novel, The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald sits in a chair and looks down at a sheaf of handwritten pages that he holds in his hand. A slim man with short hair, wearing scholarly glasses, he appears to be reading over the dense, longhand drafts of the very work we have just finished ourselves. Coming at the end of a novel that is punctuated by photographs, we might linger a little longer than usual over this photograph of the author, scrutinizing it as an extension of this book that records the despair, isolation, and grief of four men whose lives are irrevocably altered by the Second World War and the Holocaust. Perhaps we look for traces of Sebalds own biography in the image from his childhood in postwar Germany, to his years as a student in Germany and Switzerland, to his immigration to and permanent residence in England. We may even scan the image for signs of his early and tragic death in an automobile accident last December. We search the image, of course, in vain.

author list (cited authors)

  • Harris, S.

publication date

  • January 2002