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Sensibility without a subject

WG Sebald's strains too hard for significance and even topples over into self-parody

Walking across Suffolk, WG Sebald stops off at the Sailors’ Reading Room in Southwold, now a one-room maritime museum “almost always deserted but for one or two surviving fishermen and seafarers sitting in silence in the armchairs, whiling the hours away.” Sebald starts leafing idly through one of the ships’ logs on display and then notices a large photographic history of the first world war, dating from 1933, where “page after page of pictures from Serbia, Bosnia and Albania show scattered groups of people and stray individuals trying to escape the War by ox-cart, in the heat of summer, along…

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