Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Ajan sisäkkäiset tilat. Arkkitehtuuri, valokuva ja menneisyyden esittäminen W. G. Sebaldin romaanissa Austerlitz

Kaisa Kaakinen

Pro gradu, toukokuu 2005.
Helsingin yliopisto, humanistinen tiedekunta, taiteiden tutkimuksen laitos, yleinen kirjallisuustiede.

In her thesis, Kaisa Kaakinen analyzes how the German emigrant author W. G. Sebald (1944-2001) uses architecture and photography in his last novel "Austerlitz" to represent time, history and remembering. Sebald describes time in spatial terms: it is like a building, the rooms and chambers of which are connected to each other. The poetics of spatial time manifests itself on multiple levels of the text. Kaakinen traces it in architectural representations, photographic images, intertextuality, as well as in the form of the text, using the concept of spatial form by Joseph Frank. Architectural and photographic representations serve as meeting points for different aspects and angles of the novel and illustrate the idea of a layered present that has multiple connections to the past.

The novel tells a story of Jacques Austerlitz, who as a small child was sent from Prague to Britain in one of the so-called Kindertransports that saved children from Central Europe occupied by the National Socialists. Only gradually he remembers his Jewish parents, who have most likely perished in Nazi concentration camps. The novel brings the problematic of writing about another person's past to the fore by the fact that Austerlitz's story is told by an anonymous narrator, Austerlitz's interlocutor, who listens to and writes down Austerlitz's story.

Kaakinen devotes the final part of her thesis to study the demands of representing a historical trauma, drawing on authors such as Dominick LaCapra and Michael Rothberg. Through the analysis of architectural and photographic representations in the novel, she demonstrates how Austerlitz highlights the sense of singularity and inaccessibility of memories of an individual, while also stressing the necessity - and therefore a certain kind of possibility - of passing these memories to another person. The coexistence of traumatic narrowness and of the infinity of history is reflected in ambivalent buildings. Some buildings in the novel resemble reversible figures: they can be perceived simultaneously as ruins and as construction sites. Buildings are also shown to be able to both cover and preserve memories - an idea that also is repeated in the use of photography, which tends to both replace memories and cause an experience of the presence of an absent thing.

Commenting and critisizing some recent studies on Sebald, the author develops a reading which stresses the ambivalence inherent in Sebald's view on history and historiography. Austerlitz shows the need to recognize the inevitable absence of the past as well as the distance from the experiences of others. Equally important, however, is the refusal to give up narrating the past: Sebald's novel stresses the necessity to preserve the sites of the past, which carry silent traces of vanished life. The poetics of Austerlitz reflects the paradox of the simultaneous impossibility and indispensability of writing history.

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 15.08.2006

Yhteystiedot, Contact information E-thesis Helsingin yliopisto, University of Helsinki