Sebald's Ghosts

Traveling among the Dead in The Rings of Saturn

in Journeys
Author: Simon Cooke
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W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn ([1998] 2002), originally published in German in 1995 as Die Ringe des Saturn: eine englische Wallfahrt [An English Pilgrimage], recounts a walking tour of the English county of Suffolk. As the narrative weaves through an array of histories, memories, dreams, and textual and visual forms, it creates an East Anglian arena for a world tour of death, destruction, and atrocity: the traveler attempts to unearth skulls, examines paintings of autopsies, spends time in graveyards, incorporates photographs of Nazi death camps, and patterns it into a work of sublime elegy. Is Sebald, then, the ultimate "dark tourist"? Or, as this article proposes, is it through an insistence on the omnipresence of death and the interconnections between different sites of trauma and the everyday that Sebald's work, while in one sense embodying a thanatological impulse, also powerfully resists the commodification of the thanatouristic attraction?

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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