Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964–2001 by W G Sebald (Translated by Iain Galbraith) - review by Anthea Bell

Anthea Bell

Pneumatological Prose

Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964–2001


Hamish Hamilton 213pp £14.99

This selection of W G (Max) Sebald’s poems will be treasure trove to his admirers. Brilliantly translated by Iain Galbraith, who has assumed the mantle of the late Michael Hamburger as translator of Sebald’s poetry, it includes works from the whole length of his creative life, cut short far too early in December 2001. It contains material from two early collections in typescript, ‘School Latin’ (including poems from an earlier collection of his student years, ‘Poemtrees’), and ‘Across the Land and the Water’, from which this book derives its title. They were not published in German when they were first written, although Galbraith’s lucid introduction shows that parts of the second collection became preliminary stages for the fine narrative poem After Nature, the three sections of which appeared in the Austrian journal Manuskripte in the mid-1980s, and in Hamburger’s English translation in 2002. 

These earlier poems now make their way into English, along with a number of others found in the unpublished manuscripts from Sebald’s literary estate in the German Literature Archive at Marbach. There is great wealth here, and as Galbraith cogently puts it, ‘it is perhaps only in reading Sebald’s poetry,

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