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Kinga's Reading

Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald, Anthea Bell Austerlitz is not an easy read. A book that spans over 400 pages, with no chapter breaks or paragraphs. It's one long stream of consciousness, except that it's not. But it is a book that benefits from long, uninterrupted reads. Reads that I do not get. So that's my only quibble with the book; a quibble that's more due to my life than the book itself.Austerlitz follows the encounter of our unnamed narrator with Jacques Austerlitz, one of the children on the kindertransport out of war-torn Europe to the relative safety of the UK. As soon as the four year-old Austerlitz gets to his British family, in Wales, they strip him of his identity and give him a new name. Growing up in the cold (both physically and emotionally) house in Bala with two distant adults for company, Austerlitz stagnates. Only the escape to a boarding school brings him some satisfaction, to the point where the loathes going home at holidays. It's during his time at the boarding school that he first finds out that his actual name is very different from the one he has been using for much of his life.Our narrator encounters Austerlitz infrequently, but each time the story picks up without introductions or unnecessary small talk. Slowly, through the meandering tale that he tells, we find out about his past. Or rather, what Austerlitz found out about his past. The tangents and extra information are wonderful snippets of a great mind, but I can see how these would be irritating to some readers. We find out parts of his past gradually, but there's no happy ending there. I preferred it that way; a happy ending in such a book would seem forced and fake. Instead, some of the threads are left open with hints as to what happened. This is a brilliant book, but it isn't for everyone. The lack of structure, or the seeming lack of structure, will put some people off. I really wished that I could have gone away for a few days, sat down and read the book without the interruptions that my life contains. It would have been a far more satisfying way of reading the book.