Chapter

“They are Ever Returning to Us, the Dead”

in The War Complex

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780226808550
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226808796 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226808796.003.0006
“They are Ever Returning to Us, the Dead”

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Sebald perceives the Holocaust as a profound recent historical catastrophe, even as a “unique” event that marks an important “before and after” in human history. But he also perceives it as an emblematic event for European modernity—one possible consequence of the ordered, “sanitary,” industrialism so fascinating to Austerlitz. At the same time, he perceives it as the disaster that crystallizes most completely for our time the common, but profound human catastrophe: to be caught in time, which will obliterate all that can be accomplished in time, even the arduous work of memory. The process can be slow and gradual, quick and surprising, natural or manmade. But it is always most terrible—arbitrary and avoidable and obeying no natural law—when it is manmade.

Keywords: novels; W. G. Sebald; Holocaust; industrialism; European modernity; natural law

Chapter.  7471 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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