Grad School Diary: Reading Austerlitz

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When you watch the sun come up and go down. When you feel the bitter cold of winter with or without your warmest jacket. When you listen to the music you love and it makes you weep in joy and cry for reasons unknown...you're happy but sad at the same time. These are feelings we are never able to express in words, we can only point them out with images. I feel these things when I read W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. I'm not done reading and I hope to review it when I am done. However it touches so lightly on that which causes great pain and magnifies simple beauty as if it is that which is most important to focus on. And yet in doing so, the pain hurts more. It sinks into the subconscience like smoke seeps into clothing. So you see the ugliness that we human beings create and you expect that there will be more on that, but no. You see the ugliness that nature creates, and unlike ours it's always beautiful. Even when it is harming us, like wiping out a village of people. He shows you the sunset, the warmth of love, and the charm of simplicity, and in all of it there is a suggestion that we lack something that is somehow abundant around us. Austerlitz seems to suggest that we are mad because we compete with nature. We mean not to copy her but to outdo her, and when we're not doing so, then we are keen on dissecting her, or perfecting her. Therein lies our constant grief.

-J

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