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Word Count: 593
Beyond genre Austerlitz by WG Sebald trs Anthea Bell Penguin 699 For some reason plausibility in fiction is becoming harder to sustain or even achieve The problem has got so bad that even Frank Skinner has noted it in his autobiography saying something to the effect that when one reads a sentence such as Maria lit a cigarette one is tempted to react by saying Oh no she didnt and throwing the book away This is not a problem with Sebald and particularly with this novel which may say fiction on the back by the barcode but which has such an unimpugnable tang of veracity that when I called up Penguin to check on the publication date and was asked whether I wanted to speak to someone in the fiction or non-fiction department I was stumped and only decided on fiction I suppose after being prompted by the increasingly suspicious receptionist This is an achievement not emphatically not a failure of tone or technique For a start it is written in that very central-European Thomas Bernhard-ish headlong rush as if the whole work were itself one single train of thought - the book contains no paragraph breaks but as it is set in fairly big type with generous margins this is something you hardly notice Besides which as with Sebalds other work it comes interlarded with reproductions of photographs maps ticket stubs architectural diagrams poignant and arresting in a manner which both is and is not a gimmick One of these photos is also printed on the front cover of the improbably named Austerlitz in fancy dress at the age according to the text of five As at least one reviewer has pointed out the child in the picture looks a bit older than five could it in fact be Sebald himself It could well be which makes his relationship to the book all the more interesting For the Austerlitz of the novel is
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