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After Nature, W. G. Sebald’s first literary work, now translated into English by Michael Hamburger, explores the lives of three men connected by their restless questioning of humankind’s place in the natural world. From the efforts of each, “an order arises, in places beautiful and comforting, though more cruel, too, than the previous state of ignorance.” The first figure is the great German Re-naissance painter Matthias Grünewald. The second is the Enlightenment botanist-explorer Georg Steller, who accompanied Bering to the Arctic. The third is the author himself, who describes his wanderings among landscapes scarred by the wrecked certainties of previous ages.
After Nature introduces many of the themes that W. G. Sebald explored in his subsequent books. A haunting vision of the waxing and waning tides of birth and devastation that lie behind and before us, it confirms the author’s position as one of the most profound and original writers of our time.
“The language of After Nature, as conveyed in Michael Hamburger’s flawlessly clear translation, is classically lucid. . . . It is [Sebald’s] ability to enter diverse inner landscapes, and evoke, with an impartial empathy, entire geographies of experience, that gives [his] writing . . . its gravitas and its somber beauty.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The verse retains the Sebaldian virtues of rhetorical elegance and clarity, and sits well in English, as indeed does virtually every word he wrote. . . . [After Nature] is a work of great power and seriousness, fully worthy to stand beside the prose works of Sebald’s last decade.” —The New York Review of Books
“A writer of almost unclassifiable originality, but whose voice we recognize as indispensable and central to our time.” —The New York Times Book Review