'Zuneigung und Sachverstand': regarding Michael Hamburger and W. G. Sebald

Dora Osborne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The visit of Sebald's narrator to the Suffolk home of Michael Hamburger is a central episode of 'The Rings of Saturn'. It draws on the real life acquaintance between Sebald and Hamburger and in part pays homage to the poet whose work Sebald greatly respected. But the narrator also perceives 'Wahlverwandtschaften und Korrespondenzen' with the German-Jewish émigré, even claiming a similarity of experience which could be called 'narratophilic' (Santner). This essay explores how Sebald negotiates between his admiration for Hamburger and his desire to understand a biography at once so similar to and different from his own. It also shows how Sebald's complex and unresolved depiction of Hamburger in his prose provides a model for artists and directors who have returned to this episode more recently. Tacita Dean, Frank Wierke, Grant Gee and Katie Mitchell are both fascinated and challenged by the German author's legacy and like Sebald must negotiate between personal investment and objective understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-325
Number of pages17
JournalOxford German Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2013


  • 'Die Ringe des Saturn'
  • Anglo-German relations
  • Appropriation
  • Emigration
  • German language
  • Michael Hamburger
  • Poetry
  • W. G. Sebald


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