The Emigrants ~ by W.G. Sebald

I’ll be reading this again very shortly,  I might even start later today or tomorrow, although it is rather intense and you don’t notice until late in the book  and you contemplate reading it again.  But it’s so incredibly good I personally think Sebald should have got the Nobel Prize in Literature at some point.

Fwiw,  I’ve read a couple of W.G. Sebald’s novels prior and truly enjoyed both of them but a friend recommended The Emigrants long ago and it’s been on my mental “bucket list” ever since.   I finally nominated it in a reading group and it made the schedule.   I’m so glad I got to it!



The Emigrants
by W.G. Sebald
1992 / 238 pages 
read by Mel Foster  7h 10m
rating 9.75 / historical fiction 
(both read and listened)

The others I read?   I read Austerlitz first and I until I read The Emigrants I thought it was the best.  Then I read The Rings of Saturn and it was also extremely good,  but for some reason,  not quite up to the level of Austerlitz.   In general this man should have got a Nobel Prize at some point but that never happened an he died in 2001.  Here’s an obituary:

The narrative of The Emigrants consists mainly of the stories about four different fictional men as told by a series of character and an unnamed overall narrator who apparently knew most of them. (The overall narrator is probably Sebald himself as he reveals they have the same birthdays.)   The men and their tales are connected by themes of the post-WWII years and the traumatic events in Germany.   Three of the men left Germany,  the fourth stayed,  but felt like a foreigner in his own country.

As is very common in Sebald’s novels, the narrative is lushly illustrated by representative black and white photographs of representative subjects.

As would be expected there are many references to real people of the times.  There is also several allusions to Vladimir Nabokov among other people or things.

These are the main characters but I’ll elaborate on their different characters in a later review –  I think I’ve got  them confused in my mind.

Dr Henry Selwyn
Paul Bereyter
Amros Adelwarth
Max Ferber

“Kissengen’s Jewry”


This entry was posted in 2023 Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Emigrants ~ by W.G. Sebald

  1. Thanks, Becky, for posting this and for including all the links to reviews and articles. I read “The Emigrants” last year and am going to begin “The Rings of Saturn” shortly. Sebald’s writing is superb, in my very humble opinion, and I agree: He should have won the Pulitzer or another prize for literature, say the Booker Prize”, during his lifetime.

    Thanks again,
    Ellen L.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read The emigrants but over 10 years ago, ie before I started blogging, so I don’t remember a lot about it now except that I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve just read Austerlitz and loved it too. I was talking to an acquaintance the other night who was currently reading The rings of Saturn – she was enjoying it but finding it hard going. I should read it one day too. I love the melancholic but reflective tone in the two I’ve read so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It had been so long since I read Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn that I forgot how different Sebald is. I think I was better prepared for Austerlitz than I was for The Emigrants. I’m reading it again now and going a bit more slowly. The first time the whole thing was kind of mind-bogglingly beautiful and sad, but this second time I know a bit better what Sebald is doing so I’m not worried about plot etc. I’m more just letting it flow. 🙂

      Melancholic is a word I tend to associate with Orhan Pamuk but it certainly first Sebald.


  3. I have Austerlitz in the 746 but have been a bit daunted to start it. Although I have heard great things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great – Austerlitz was so sad and beautiful.


    • Becky, please let me know what you think about “Austerlitz”. It’s been on my to-read list for ages.

      Ellen L.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Austerlitz is a strange and wonderful book. It’s gorgeously written and illustrated with photos although it is fiction. The photos make the fiction really personal and “true to life” as it was. The man is like no one else really – he’s not like Borges or Kafka or Nabokov although he was apparently influenced by them. Maybe most like Borges but that’s just my opinion.

        Our 1st person narrator is traveling through Europe of the 1960s and meets a man, Austerlitz, who was brought to England as a refugee from Czechoslovakia. Now his adoptive parents have died and he’s become an academic. But knows his background and wants to go find out more. This is that man’s story. Again, it’s about memory and dislocation and grief – very poignant.


  4. Thank you, Becky, for the detailed description of “Austerlitz”. I’m going to request it from the public library after I finish the one I already have.

    Ellen L.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s