From one of the undisputed masters of world literature, a haunting novel of sublime ambition and power about a man whose fragmentary memories of a lost childhood lead him on a quest across Europe in search of his heritage.
Jacques Austerlitz is a survivor – rescued as a child from the Nazi threat. In the summer of 1939 he arrives in Wales to live with a Methodist minister and his wife. As he grows up, they tell him nothing of his origins, and he reaches adulthood with no understanding of where he came from. Late in life, a sudden memory brings him the first glimpse of his origins, launching him on a journey into a family history that has been buried.
The story of Jacques Austerlitz unfolds over the course of a 30-year conversation that takes place in train stations and travellers’ stops across England and Europe. In Jacques Austerlitz, Sebald embodies the universal human search for identity, the struggle to impose coherence on memory, a struggle complicated by the mind’s defences against trauma. Along the way, this novel of many riches dwells magically on a variety of subjects – railway architecture, military fortifications, insects, plants and animals, the constellations, works of art, a small circus and the three cities that loom over the book, London, Paris and Prague – in the service of its astounding vision.