Sense of Place

Sense of place is an art which can relate a story, emotion or characteristics to a place, and a mature form of this art is seen in 'The Emigrants' by the W.G. Sebald. Critics praised about his idiosyncratic depiction of history memory and Trans generational transmission. W.B. Sebald is a German author living in England, so author’s emotions and love towards his native land is shown here.

In this text of W.B. Sebald graphic reproductions of photograph and photographs as visual and material object play an important role as plot elements. Memory (pictorial) and narrative (verbal) both are interconnected very beautifully in this novel. Consisting the photographs of people places and artifact, it is a novel-essay in the form of a scrapbook.

One aspect needs to be discovered when discussing the functions of photography and the text in The Emigrant concern the suggestion of authenticity, as the photograph preserves the refection of light of at certain time in a certain place. But the narration is so excellent that because of the both fields of explanation the sense of place become real for the reader.

There is one scientific fact that the understanding is better as one increases the senses processing on it, so in the case of the pictorial and verbal representation together the understanding of the text is better and gives a deeper impact to our minds.

As Ernst van Alphen has pointed out, photographs are both iconic and indexical signs: “Photographs are perfect icons because of the high similarity between the image and the object being referred to; but they are often seen as the exemplary index as well because of the existential relation of touch between the light the object reflects or emits and the sensitive layer of film on which the light fell” (133).

This combination of verbal and pictorial representation in ‘The Emigrant’ written by W.G. sebald is perfect in story telling aspect as it consist photos of the time so it point the imagination of the reader in a write direction, reader do not get confused in the story as he was thinking in a way closer to the reality. This representation could also lead to misunderstanding if the narration is not good and in relation with the photograph too, but W.G. sebald had an excellent work in the representation of the content. The beauty of the text is that the emotions, morals and duties all are presented taking four different stories represented with photographs and text.

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There is one fact that the pictorial representation in ‘The Emigrant’ has some information that is not in the verbal narration, which indicates that this representation silently says more than words can say, which is really helpful for a better literature.

There was a photograph of graveyard and between the title “Dr. Henry Selwyn” and the graveyard photograph there are two simple lines narrating this, the lines seems like a poem(5). By the picture of the graveyard and the poetic lines the author wanted to state that memories are the ones that last forever.

The other three stories are also having similar quotes, two of which have verifiable sources. The motto introducing the second story, “Paul Bereyter,” is a quotation from Jean Paul’s “Vorschule der Ästhetik,” a compendium of classicist aesthetics and poetics. Subtitle of this story is a paraphrase from Vorschule der Ästhetik by Jean Paul. Jean Paul writes about the hermetic German philosopher, Hamann: “Thus, the great Hamann is a deep sky full of telescopic stars, and some nebulae cannot be pierced by the eye”. Here author quoted a two-liner poem which is about general impossibility of knowing the other people.

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In the third story author described his uncle and how his life after so much wondering ends in an island. In the pictorial representation here the author represented sorrow by stating “My field of corn is / but a crop of tears” (95). The original quote reads:

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,

My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,

My crop of corn is but a field of tares,

And all my good is but vain hope of gain:

The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

In the fourth place author tells a story about a Germen-Jewish painter named Max Ferber. In this story artist gives narrator the history of his mother’s idealistic life in a village. In the pictorial representation here he stated: they comes when night falls to search of life.

Emigration is the topic on which the novel is made, it is an emotional issue but in this creation it has its both sides in front of the reader. It suggest about the people occupied place in that these people are living an incomplete life in a sense. As they are missing their essence but at the same time he showed that the migration was a necessity at that time. This is a kind of dilemma for them and they are living an incomplete life.

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He showed sad end of all four stories, looks as the person is demanding for the other life, the life without the migration, the life without being a migrant.

An emigrant is a person who leaves his country to live in other. Weather he do so because of earning issue or any other. Being an emigrant is like a hard decision for one’s whole life as if today a person decides to leave his or her nation (for any reason) he or her shall continue that for the whole life. . And on being an emigrant it is hard to get the feeling that you are the part of the nation that you are working for. It kind of makes you feel that you are odd out of them.

Humans are the species with emotions and how can we not miss our native land, the land on which we spend our childhood. We have our stories connected with places and people. Language and culture are the two most important facts that are in our behavior and it is hard to rewrite what you’ve learned since your childhood.

But sometimes it is necessary for the survival, and sometimes it is need. Suppose a student extra brilliant in science and research work and living in a developing nation having lack of resources, for him being an emergent is the need of his life. And in this modern era there are various mediums to communicate with your friends and family.

Concluding this I want to state that W.G. Sebald who himself is an emigrant shared his feelings taking four different stories. The method of representing the story is very effective. During the whole story reader can thing about W.G. Sebald. Pictorial representation is the heart of this novel. It clarifies the emotions the author wants to present.



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