Vanguard anti-narrativist Galen Strawson declares personal memory unimportant for self-constitution. But what if lapses of personal memory are sustained by a morally reprehensible amnesia about historical events, as happens in the work of German author W. G. Sebald? The importance of memory cannot be downplayed in such cases. Nevertheless, contrary to expectations, a concern for memory needn’t ally one with the narrativist view of the self. Recovery of historical and personal memory results in self-dissolution and not self-unity or understanding in Sebald’s characters. In the end, Sebald shows how memory can be significant, even imperative, within a deeply anti-narrativist outlook on the self, memory, and history.
Behrendt, Kathy. ‘Scraping Down the Past: Memory and Amnesia in W.G. Sebald’s Anti-narrative’, Philosophy and Literature 34.2 (2010), 394-408.
Copyright © 2010 Kathy Behrendt. This article first appeared in Philosophy and Literature 34:2 (2010), 394-408. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.