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Elizabeth Gilbert: The Book You Have to Read

Gilbert recommends ‘The Rings of Saturn’ and ‘The Emigrants’ by W.G. Sebald (New Directions, $23.95/$22.95)

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Some years ago, a friend gave me two books by W.G. Sebald. I let them sit on my shelf unread for years because they intimidated me—not quite novels, not quite essays, and translated from the German. I suspected cold existentialism lurking within. So I can’t explain why I suddenly picked up these books this spring. But I read them in two impassioned sittings, loving every elegant and heartbreaking word. Sebald’s meandering tales of beautifully shattered old-world characters made me ache with nostalgia. Then, the very next week, I heard on the news that Sebald had just been killed in a car accident. I was devastated. (Right when we were finally getting to know each other!) But I cherish that one week we had together before he died, and I cherish these two lovely books.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of The Last American Man, published by Viking.

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