The long-awaited first biography of W. G. Sebald - a TLS Summer Read
'It is a considerable achievement to unpick, so convincingly, mysteries Sebald has taken care to contrive. And to do it with such respect, and indeed generosity, that the great originals are burnished' Iain Sinclair
W. G. Sebald was one of the most extraordinary and influential writers of the twentieth century. Through books including The Emigrants, Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, he pursued an original literary vision that combined fiction, history, autobiography and photography and addressed some of the most profound themes of contemporary literature: the burden of the Holocaust, memory, loss and exile.
The first biography to explore his life and work, Speak, Silence pursues the true Sebald through the memories of those who knew him and through the work he left behind. This quest takes Carole Angier from Sebald's birth as a second-generation German at the end of the Second World War, through his rejection of the poisoned inheritance of the Third Reich, to his emigration to England, exploring the choice of isolation and exile that drove his work. It digs deep into a creative mind on the edge, finding profound empathy and paradoxical ruthlessness, saving humour, and an elusive mix of fact and fiction in his life as well as work. The result is a unique, ferociously original portrait.
A remarkable biography . . . The first major study of revered author and academic WG Sebald reveals an obsessive and brilliant mind . . . In her long and scholarly book, a testament to the powers of research and detailed dissection, Angier has presented a remarkable portrait of a writer consumed by work ― Guardian
Meticulously researched . The brilliance of [this] biography, a spectacularly agile work of criticism as well as a feat of doggedly meticulous research, lies in Angier's ability to look her subject straight in the eye while holding on to the sense of adoration that made her want to write it in the first place ― Observer
It is a considerable achievement to unpick, so convincingly, mysteries Sebald has taken care to contrive. And to do it with such respect, and indeed generosity, that the great originals are burnished -- Iain Sinclair
Speak, Silence is an extraordinary achievement. Carole Angier has been able to capture the genius of Sebald without trapping him in facile definitions, allowing his portrait the many hues and changing angles that those who knew him will recognize as profoundly true -- Alberto Manguel
Sebald once wrote to me that he would just like to be "a guardian of the lesser domains". His work is enough, but this enticing and thorough book on his life and art proves that he was, in spite of his tragic and early death, an absolute master of the highest domains of literature -- Javier Marías
Carole Angier extends the scope of biography by turning her intense admiration for Sebald's work into a personal quest for this enigmatic and disturbing writer -- Hilary Spurling
A biographer of great sympathy -- Michael Holroyd
W.G. Sebald so deliberately and cunningly blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction in his books that every reader longs for a clear-eyed guide to what is invented and what is 'real', while at the same time dreading the damage this might do to the delicate webs he weaves. Carole Angier's tireless detective work has cleared up many of the mysteries, both in his life and in his work, while her critical acumen and manifest admiration for the latter ensures that it emerges enhanced rather than diminished from her labours. A riveting book -- Gabriel Josipovici
Remarkable, the definitive biography . . . Deeply researched, subtle, sympathetic ― Claire Tomalin on 'Jean Rhys'
An acute literary intelligence . . . The reader comes to trust instinctively Angier's assessments ― New York Times on 'Jean Rhys'
Allows us to see Levi's life in its full historical meaning ― Financial Times on 'The Double Bond: Primo Levi'
Marvellous and visionary . . . Remarkable in all senses of the word ― New York Times on 'The Double Bond: Primo Levi'
Angier writes with brio and occasional brilliance . . . By the end, I felt convinced that she had got to the heart of Levi ― Guardian on 'The Double Bond: Primo Levi'
The first biography of W. G. Sebald: a robust, intricate, landmark portrait of one of the most significant and lauded cultural figures of the twentieth century
About the Author
Carole Angier is the author of Jean Rhys: Life & Work (shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) and The Double Bond: A Life of Primo Levi. She was educated at the universities of McGill, Oxford and Cambridge. She taught academic and life writing for many years and has edited several books of refugee writing. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.