On the Natural History of Destruction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 12:00am

On the Natural History of Destruction

by W.G. Sebald

Penguin $144

About 50,000 people were killed when Dresden, Germany, was bombed on February 13 and 14, 1945. According to witnesses, the second wave of US bombers machine-gunned more civilians as they went through. In this posthumously published collection of four essays, German author W.G. Sebald analyses why Germans today are 'a nation strikingly blind to tradition and lacking in history'. His answer: because history shows Germans were complicit in the Third Reich's crimes. He claims 'the majority of Germans today know, or so at least it is to be hoped, that we actually provoked the annihilation of the cities in which we once lived'. Sebald also takes a rather disturbing view of the role of literature. He is particularly disappointed that writers did not adequately address the full horror of these events in their fiction.


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