Some Basic Thoughts on Austerlitz

There is no doubt that the stylistic choice of long narratives in Austerlitz is a pain to the reader. However, once you get into the pace of reading, I found that the narrative would begin to be a bit easier to understand (plus, the pictures helped haha). Before lecture begins today, I’d just like to blab about a few things that interested me.

I found that the most interesting part of the book were the descriptions of biology such as the function of the moth. Perhaps this is simply because I have a bias for biology over the other sciences.

Sebald, through the narrative voice speaking on behalf of Austerlitz’s account, goes into a great length about the threshold of temperature for these creatures and any others in general. He almost makes you pity the moths by causing the reader to familiarize with the event that you encounter one in person. For instance, he mentions how the moth will fly into your home, recognize it is not a familiar place to be in, and become scared. (Yes. A moth. Scared. You read right.) At this point, the reader is probably skeptical about the narrative’s closeness to the moth. However, he then goes on to explain these feelings by personifying the moth and making it seem helpless at our disposal where the narrated character must take the moth back to nature where it belongs. As much as I, myself, hate moths and would gladly exterminate any that entered my home, Sebald’s narrator provides long descriptions about the simplest of things that forces you to appreciate the beauty/uniqueness of each creature. It is with the passion found in the narrative voice that causes readers to sympatize with the narrator and his concern for these moths.

As someome who raised birds for over a decade, another interesting section in the book was obviously … the mention of birds. More specifically when Sebald’s narrator suggests that Austerlitz’s uncle had a parrot (Macaw) that lived to be 50 years and older.

As absurd as it sounds, yes, these species can live up to said age. In fact, there are some other species that can live to be 100 years old. However, the fact that it is suggested that the bird lived past its normal lifespan in captivity is fascinating. The narrative is notorious for making Austerlitz’s accounts sound true even if it is entirely fiction. (I don’t deny that there are some sections -the facts mentioned about biology- within the book that are odd). The plausibile situations input by the narrator causes readers to believe it would be possible that: A) that Macaw truly had a devoted human partner, B) the narrator exaggerated, for the upmost optimal conditions must be met for the Macaw to reach past its normal life expectancy, C) this Macaw was no ordinary birdy, or D) some mix of all the above and other factors potentially influencing the narrative or the bird itself. Either way, Sebald did not fail to grab my attention and he most likely did so with other readers who were surprised by this fact. After all, the use of pictures after the lengthy but interesting descriptions practically forces the audience to associate the narrative with them and enables the narrator to pass their accounts as real.

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