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Minor Canon

WG Sebald plain hat

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Winfried Georg Sebald (1944–2001), known as W.G. Sebald or (as he preferred) Max Sebald, was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by literary critics as one of the greatest living authors.

Born in Wertach, Bavaria, Sebald's father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and served in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis. The Holocaust and European modernity, especially its modes of warfare and persecution, later became central themes in his work. After attaining degrees in German and English literature in Germany and Switzerland, he began teaching in England in 1966 and lived much of his later life in the vicinity of Norwich.

Sebald's works are largely concerned with the themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay (of civilizations, traditions or physical objects). They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German people.

Sebald completely rejected the mainstream of Western German literature of the 1950s to 1970s, as represented by Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass: "I hate [...] the German postwar novel like pestilence." He took a deliberate counter-stance. Sebald's distinctive and innovative novels (which he mostly called simply prose ("Prosa") were written in an intentionally somewhat old-fashioned and elaborate German (one passage in Austerlitz famously contains a sentence that is 9 pages long). Sebald closely supervised the English translations (principally by Anthea Bell and Michael Hulse). They include VertigoThe EmigrantsThe Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. They are notable for their curious and wide-ranging mixture of fact (or apparent fact), recollection and fiction, often punctuated by indistinct black-and-white photographs set in evocative counterpoint to the narrative rather than illustrating it directly. His novels are presented as observations and recollections made while travelling around Europe. They also have a dry and mischievous sense of humour.

Sebald also published three books of poetry: For Years Now with Tess Jaray (2001), After Nature (1988), and Unrecounted (2004).

The design for this hat is inspired by the first English edition of The Emigrants, published by Harvill in 1996.