From my window

by Mercedes Moresco

A journey inside 
of himself

Austerlitz is a novel by the German writer WG Sebald, published in 2001. It tells the story of a man who discovers his past through a hard and difficult path of recognition. In some way, the novel recreates the myth of the modern hero that Joseph Campbell spoke of.
   In Campbell's scheme, the hero goes through certain initiation rites that imply an abandonment of his previous way of life, a series of initiatory path with tests that he may or may not overcome, and a return to life to live it more fully. sense.  Through the story of Austerlitz we appreciate his initial discomfort: "I gradually realized how isolated I was and had always been," (121) until a "vague inner impulse" (130) in the London train station leads him to follow a railway clerk inside where he arrives at the Ladies Waiting Room. It is there where his memories begin to unravel, so long kept. That waiting room "contained all the hours of my past, all my repressed fears and desires" (133). It is from that moment that Austerlitz begins his path of self-knowledge, the search for his origins. A path that will lead him to be reborn: “and a terrible weariness came over me at the thought that I had never really been alive, or that I had just been born now,” (133).

    The events are reorganized around this dialogue between Austerlitz and the narrator, and some other intermediaries that intersect in the story of Austerlitz, so that it is the reader, attentive to the changes and the narrative voices, who has to organize the events. who narrate the fable. At a textual level, the images and photos included in the book occupy an important space in the narrative and contribute, in my opinion, to emphasizing the sensation of “subjective realism”: how external reality, buildings, architecture in general , objects and spaces evoke in the character and in the reader their own internal and subjective world. On the first tour of his hometown, Prague, Austerlitz comments: “I had to stop again and again, because my eyes had been caught on a beautifully wrought window grille, the iron handle of a bell or the branches of a a small almond tree that grew above the garden wall.(146)

    What I definitely find most interesting about the novel is  how Sebald manages, thanks to a new way of narrating, that the reader participates in the story, that he gets involved intellectually and emotionally. Just as Ariadne holds the thread that helps Theseus to get out of the labyrinth, so the reader holds the narrative thread and witnesses how Austerlitz comes to find himself.

    If you are an experienced reader, one of those who like to get lost and find yourself in the text, do not miss this deep and impressive novel by Sebald.

Bibliographic data:
Sebald, W.G. (2014) 
Austerlitz. Barcelona. Anagram.
It is available at the Broward Public Libraries.