East Anglia, the rump of the British Isles, has inspired a disproportionate number of writers: Robert Macfarlane, Daisy Johnson, Mark Cocker, Sarah Perry, to name but a few. Towering over them all is the ghost of a soft-spoken man with a shoe-brush moustache and sardonic eyes. Eighteen years after his death, W.G. Sebald’s reputation only grows. Few writers have inspired the commemoration industry Sebald has given life to while still so recently claimed by the past tense.
Before he was killed in a car accident in 2001 at the age of 57, Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald enjoyed several years of fame as a writer of what he called ‘prose fiction’ — books that drew on fiction, memoir, travelogue and essay to create hybrid works unified as much by tone (sepulchral, anxious) as form.