Across the Land and the Water
Selected Poems, 1964-2001
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
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A publishing landmark—the first major collection of poems by one of the late twentieth century’s literary masters
German-born W. G. Sebald is best known as the innovative author of Austerlitz, the prose classic of World War II culpability and conscience that The Guardian called “a new literary form, part hybrid novel, part memoir, part travelogue.” Its publication put Sebald in the company of Nabokov, Calvino, and Borges. Yet Sebald’s brilliance as a poet has been largely unacknowledged—until now.
Skillfully translated by Iain Galbraith, the nearly one hundred poems in Across the Land and the Water range from those Sebald wrote as a student in the sixties to those completed right before his untimely death in 2001. Featuring eighty-eight poems published in English for the first time and thirty-three from unpublished manuscripts, this collection also brings together all the verse he placed in books and journals during his lifetime.
Here are Sebald’s trademark themes—from nature and history (“Events of war within/a life cracks/across the Order of the World/spreading from Cassiopeia/a diffuse pain reaching into/the upturned leaves on the trees”), to wandering and wondering (“I have even begun/to speak in foreign tongues/roaming like a nomad in my own/town . . .”), to oblivion and memory (“If you knew every cranny/of my heart/you would yet be ignorant/of the pain my happy/memories bring”).
Soaring and searing, the poetry of W. G. Sebald is an indelible addition to his superb body of work, and this unique collection is bound to become a classic in its own right.
W. G. Sebald was born in Wertach im Allgäu, Germany, in 1944. He studied German language and literature in Freiburg, Switzerland, and Manchester. He taught at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, for thirty years, becoming professor of European literature in 1987, and from 1989 to 1994 was the first director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. His previously translated books—The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, Vertigo, and Austerlitz—have won a number of international awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Berlin Literature Prize, and the LiteraTour Nord Prize. He died in December 2001.
Iain Galbraith was born in Glasgow in 1956 and studied modern languages and comparative literature at the universities of Cambridge, Freiburg, and Mainz, where he taught for several years. He has edited works by Stevenson, Hogg, Scott, Boswell, and Conrad, and contributed essays to many books and journals in the U.K., France, and Germany. He is a widely published translator of German-language writing, especially poetry, into English, winning the John Dryden Prize for Literary Translation in 2004.