Tuesday, April 22, 2014
S is for...Sebald, Spiegelman, and Smith
Happy Tuesday, fellow A-Zers. Today brings us to the letter S and it's all about: W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, and Alexander McCall Smith.
W.G. Sebald (1944-2001)
German writer W.G. Sebald is pure brilliance. Prior to his untimely death in 2001, Sebald was heralded as one of the greatest living authors and believed to be a future Nobel Prize winner for Literature. His father was a member of the Reichswehr in1929 and then transitioned as a member of the Wehrmacht under the Nazis, though he remained a fairly detached figure. During World War II, Sebald's father was a prisoner of war until 1947. Because of much of his experience during the Nazi Regime, Sebald focuses the majority of his work on the Holocaust and post-war Germany. Heavy themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay run rampant through his work. In addition, he utilizes elaborate and old-fashioned language in the original German interspersed with black and white photos to highlight the interruption of memory. This is most apparent in Austerlitz, a novel written in two paragraphs with pictures breaking up sentences. In this novel, there is also a nine-page single sentence. It's a work of art. Sebald effortlessly blends fact (or apparent fact), recollection, and fiction to compose his writing. Most of his work is presented in travelogue form and has moments of dry humor. He has named several established authors as having influenced him, including: Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, and Vladimir Nabokov. Seriously, check his work out.
Art Spiegelman (1948-)
American cartoonist, editor, and comic advocate, Art Spiegelman, is perhaps best known for his graphic novel, Maus. The novel is based on his father's experience as a Holocaust survivor and depicts all of those involved as animals (Nazis are cats, Jews are mice, American are dogs, etc). It also highlights the challenges that children of Holocaust survivors face. The novel, which took thirteen years to complete, was conducted through repeated interviews with Spiegelman's father and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. This brought the format of the comic, or graphic novel, into the scholarly realm. While I was never a comic book reader growing up, Maus effectively changed my view on the genre. The book is a very quick read, but it leaves a lasting impression.
Alexander McCall Smith (1948-)
Okay...so this one is kind of a cheat, but I'm sticking to my guns on it! I first heard of Alexander McCall Smith's work while living in Scotland, but never thought much of it. Once I returned to the US, I began picking up his books and reminiscing about days gone by. I soon fell in love with the 44 Scotland Street series and now recommend it to everyone. Perhaps best know for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe. He is an Emeritus professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh, my Alma mater, and a prolific novelist. He is also a frequent contributor for The Scotsman; in fact, it was this platform,the serial, that produced the 44 Scotland Street series. If you're looking for light, fun reads, look no further than McCall Smith.
*Recommendation: The 44 Scotland Street series
Who are some of your favorite S writers?