The Emigrants fits perfectly with what I've read of Sebald's oeuvre. Through four biographical portraits, Sebald explores the experiences of people who have left, or been made to leave, their homelands. The narrator describes how the four have come into his life, how he came to hear their stories, or how he reconstructed them in their absence. He travels to their original homes and to significant stops along their journey to take pictures, to observe the buildings and streets that "...seem to me to have some kind of memory, in that they activate memory in those who look at them" (from an interview in The Guardian
). Sebald uses his standard practice of blending fact and fiction to create a narrative that the reader is always questioning, an act Sebald equated with the questioning of authority and authority's narrative of events. In the last essay, Sebald's subject tells him that reading his mother's memoirs of her early life in Germany reminded him of a German fairytale in which, "once you are under the spell, you must carry on to the finish, till your heart breaks, with whatever work you have begun—in this case, the remembering, writing, and reading." Sebald's work, engaged in the hard task of remembering, is indeed spell-binding, but also, in his characteristic way, it is gentle, delicately done, and full of an ache for what's lost.