Iain Sinclair – Austerlitz and After: Tracking Sebald [Book Review, English]


[reviewed by / autor recenzji: Peter Marks || ENG]

Iain Sinclair’s London is not a pretty place, it is not maintained nor is it particularly immune to the squalid detritus of celebrity. A contemporary of Chris Peit and Alan Moore, Sinclair takes his place amongst England’s literary statesmen quite effortlessly. His prose is solidly composed, his details crisp. The sharpness of his narratives are supported by a robust command of language coupled with referential intrigues I’d never have known about if he hadn’t woven them in so delicately. This is a publication of two parts, with a small epilogue to the first included in the end papers. The text is remarkably stark, especially given some of the more lurid content he conjures up.

I have not researched the programme East Enders, so I cannot say if this is creative license or a grim case study of vicious human tendencies. Regardless, much as Petit did with his Museum, Sinclair gets the savory bits of carnage out of the way right from the get go. He dwells upon the interconnected nature of urban spaces and dryly jots down the particulars which bring this place he passes and pauses through to life. Even as he is doing this, you begin to pick up the scent of what he’s got coming next. A fabulous exposition on memory and time’s insufferably cruel trick of memory. Old men who simply pack up their things and go out after dark to roam the city… there’s got to be some kind of society for this, the English have one for just about everything.

The second movement in this brick red book finds two of his characters tracking the movements of each other in pursuit of what time one of them spent in the presence of a fellow simply called Sebald. From the tenacious attachment one of them has to his rucksack and loss of direction in a cell-phone credit card driven world, to the others cautious participation in the momentous events which one evening can provide you are never left hanging. Sinclair’s usage of brief asides and detours down the cerebral pathways of a well worn life draw you in, a strange kind of intimacy is achieved in these low lit rooms and dourly guarded monuments.

My favorite line in his work would be this one: you cannot asset-strip location. Your own may vary, but be warned: finding a copy of this publication is going to be tricky as it has already slipped out of print. I suppose this is inevitable when you only make 300 copies available; but within this short yet succinct novella are the threads which connect three men by means which I cannot fathom. This is no simple tale of existential exploration, Sinclair’s story works as it stands through the masterful application of omission.

There’s much more to this than what is printed, but for that you’ll have to make use of your own imagination. Subjective though it may be.

Iain Sinclair – Austerlitz and After: Tracking Sebald
Booklet, 2013, Limited to 300 copies, Sold Out
Test Centre Publications, London, UK

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