Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Title: Vertigo

Author: W.G. Sebald

Number of pages: 263

Started: 7 August 2009

Finished: 11 August 2009

Opening words:

In mid-May of the year 1800 Napoleon and a force of 36,000 men crossed the Great St. Bernard pass, an undertaking that had been regarded until that time as next to impossible. For almost a fortnight, an interminable column of men, animals and equipment proceeded from Martigny via Orsières through the Entremont valley and from there moved, in a seemingly never-ending serpentine, up to the pass two and a half thousand metres above sea level, the heavy barrels of the cannon having to be draged by the soldiery, in hollowed-out tree trunks, now across snow and ice and now over bare outcrops and rocky escarpments.

Plot summary:

Part fiction, part travelogue, the narrator of this compelling masterpiece pursues his solitary, eccentric course from England to Italy and beyond, succumbing to the vertiginous unreliability of memory itself. What could possibly connect Stendhal's unrequited love, the artistry of Pisanello, a series of murders by a clandestine organisation, a missing passport, Casanova, the suicide of a dinner companion, stale apple cake, the Great Fire of London, a story by Kafka about a doomed huntsman and a closed-down pizzeria in Verona?

What I thought:

I was not a fan of this book at all. People rave about it and see deep meaning in it. I do not. As soon as I opened the book I felt slightly conned. It was the double line spacing that did it. It made me feel like someone had tried to make the book look much longer than it actually was – and without such things it would have been nearer 100 pages long.

I never really got into it though. I found that I read the words but never really engaged with any sort of plot. There were very occasional moments that caught my attention, but they were few and far between.

Would I read any more Sebald? Despite what I have said, I possibly would. I feel as though I should see more to this author than I have so far and so should perhaps give him another go. We shall see...


Sarah said...

I haven't read any Sebald yet, but many people do indeed rave about him, and those who don't seem to get converted on their second attempt. (Not to apply any pressure...)

But it does sound as though that double line spacing may have been a blessing!

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - so another attempt might convert me? I am sceptical, but might be persuaded at some point.

I hadn't thought of that about the lien spacing. I shall indeed count my blessings!