Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16.2 (W.G. Sebald)

The Emigrants
Sebald, W.G
The Emigrants

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I discovered Sebald about a decade ago, I guess. It was towards the end of my grad school years. Lori and I had just bought our first house together. Actually, it might have been before that. We may still have been living at our first shared apartment on Ashland Ave. in Buffalo. That was a great apartment. It took up the entire second floor of a gigantic forest green house.

The owner, a pot-smoking, motorcross racing sixty year-old named Mike, lived in back in what was once the carriage house. He had turned it into a swinging seventies bachelor pad, with a circular picture window looking out from the sunken living room on the second floor. Whenever I went there to pay the rent, I noticed that his computer had a pornographic screensaver preserving his monitor.

Our apartment had three bedrooms, a formal dining room, two living rooms, a sunporch, a fireplace, stained and leaded glass windows. Ah, it was lovely. I think the rent was $650 a month! The only bother was the parking. It was especially bad in winter. When it snowed I had a lot of difficulty distinguishing driveways. I always seemed to be parking my car in front of other people's driveways. I got a lot of tickets.

I don't have any specific memory of reading this book in that apartment, but something tells me I did. If not, then I read it shortly after we moved into our first house, which was in 2003.

from The Emigrants

Every walk full of surprises, and indeed of alarm. The prospects change like the scenes in a play. One street lined with palatial buildings ends at a ravine. You go to a theatre and a door in the foyer opens into a copse; another time, you turn down a gloomy back street that narrows and narrows till you think you are trapped, whereupon you take one last desperate turn round a corner and find yourself suddenly gazing from a vantage point across the vastest of panoramas. You climb a bare hillside forever and find yourself once more in a shady valley, enter a house gate and are in the street, drift with the bustle in the bazaar and are suddenly amidst gravestones. For, like Death itself, the cemeteries of Constantinople are in the midst of life. For every one who departs this life, they say, a cypress is planted. In their dense branches the turtle doves nest. When night falls they stop cooing and partake of the silence of the dead. Once the silence descends, the bats come out and flit along their ways. Cosmo claims he can hear every one of their cries.

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