An Excerpt From Sebald’s ‘Austerlitz’ – Inexorable Spread Of Processed Data; To Exclude The Reader; To Break With Everything That Still Has Some Living Connection To The Past


“As I was tormenting myself with such thoughts, distinctly aware, so Austerlitz continued, that my face was being marked by the signs of that anguish which so often assails me, I was approached by one of the library staff called Henri Lemoine, who had recognized me from those early years of mine in Paris when I went daily to the rue Richelieu. Jacques Austerlitz, inquired Lemoine, stopping by my desk and leaning slightly down to me, and so, said Austerlitz, we began a long, whispered conversation in the Haut-de-jardin reading room, which was gradually emptying now, about the dissolution, in line with the inexorable spread of processed data, of our capacity to remember, and about the collapse, l’effondrement, as Lemoine put it, of the Bibliothèque Nationale which is already under way. The new library building, which in both its entire layout and its near-ludicrous internal regulation seeks to exclude the reader as a potential enemy, might be described, so Lemoine thought, said Austerlitz, as the official manifestation of the increasingly importunate urge to break with everything which still has some living connection to the past.”

– excerpt from: W.G. Sebald. “Austerlitz.” 2001. p286, Vintage Canada, paperback edition

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