Private Eye’s Sebald parody

In 1998, some seven years before my initiation into that particular world of errancy and melancholia, the English satirical fortnightly Private Eye published a dead-on piece of Sebald parody. Belated amusement ensues:

It had grown uncommonly dark and sultry, the clouds painfully laden as though ready to sear the earth with their translucent acid, when I set out on my Summer holidays. Holidays! The word itself, a stifled and tortuous amalgam of “holly”, that fiercest and most spiteful of all trees, with its sharp, shiny, pox-green edges ready to strike out and pierce human skin, causing blood, a dark reddish-grey, greyish-red, to drop out, willy-nilly, onto the earth below, staining the soil in perpetuity, and “days”, with its dull echo of daze, in which I so often find myself after finishing these sentences, some of them as long and distracted as those sentences handed out with unnerving efficiency by the Guatemalan Lord Chief Justice to the Netherlandish invaders of the Indonesian island of Iwu-Miju in 1473, after the Brecon uprising commemorated in the poem by Swinburne after he had taken a cup of tea – a cup fatally calamitous for two pure white sugar lumps, who can have known little of their destruction but for those few dreadful seconds when they experienced the unsettling feeling, common to all human civilisation, of being dropped into hot, brown liquid with an abrupt flick of the wrist, there to disintegrate into nothingness, never to return – the entire and dreadful word, “holidays”, forcing one to attempt to suppress a mounting sense of dizziness in the face of looming catastrophe. (Eye No. 958, 4.9.1998)

I have Ben Hutchinson’s W. G. Sebald: Die dialektische Imagination (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009) to thank for this lead. Hutchinson, incidentally, appears to be an English academic who, for masochistic or possibly grant-related reasons that I long to fathom, wrote the book in German.

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