14 December 2021

In Memoriam: Patience (After Sebald) / For My Friend

Posted by Gareth Evans

Marking the 20th anniversary of the untimely early death of writer W.G. Sebald (18/05/44 – 14/12/01) and 10 years since the release of the acclaimed film on his life and work by Grant Gee, we’re delighted to offer access globally and free for 36 hours to Grant’s documentary Patience (After Sebald) in tribute to one of the late century’s most important writers.

Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered film essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss, told via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking Sebald’s most famous book The Rings of Saturn. As in the book, the film mixes history, travelogue, memoir, meditation, fiction and images to explore the personal, public and often overlooked histories of our times. 

Sebald has profoundly influenced many of today’s leading writers, thinkers and artists, a number of whom are interviewed for the film, including Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Adam Philips, Rick Moody and Tacita Dean.

Please find the film here,  available to view globally for free until 6 p.m. GMT on 15 December.

The DVD can be purchased here.

Thank you to Grant Gee, Di Robson and Artevents.


We are also very pleased to share the following poem by poet and translator Stephen Watts, a close friend of Sebald’s and whose own writing, life and knowledge contributed significantly to what became Austerlitz.


(“Tell them I had a wonderful life” Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Two months ago I was 
talking to you in the Lithuanian forests : telling you  
how old women from out of Druskininkai were walking 
the blue floors of those stretched oceans with buckets 
of mushrooms and moss 

There space is old, trees are tall, memory is pain, 
history is full of partisans and a sufi music conjures all 
of us to whirl where the stalks of the forest barely sway. 
I sensed you there because of the rotting of the music 
and I knew you’d care. 

Your room still is full of photographs 
your realm looked after by trees. You who eschewed all
computer trails have been taken away by a skidding wheel 
by black ice or a seizure of the heart, lifelong discourse 
and your daughter’s hurt 

All I can do now is stagger  
round my rooms mewling out your name Max, Max :  
what will happen to language now, now you are not here 
and who is left and how many remain of the anarchists 
on the ice-floes of speech 

These last weeks I had been
writing you postcards in my head : Max come to Whitechapel. 
Come soon. Come and talk. Come and walk. Where are you ? 
Why did you ? : but this has become an explosion of words 
on the scarp of my pain 

We’d talked about walking 
from my village to yours : cutting a section across the Alps 
or a section through a glacier’s brain. From Precasaglio 
in the Alta Valcamonica to Wertach in the Allgau. 
Now I will do that without you. 

Before we met and surely ever since
we’ve been talking to each other. And even when the other 
was not there we’d carry on in monologues to hear. I shall  
go on talking to you for as long as my mouth can speak :  
or what is the point of language  

From where did I come  
to this scarred field : you first heard my voice in your car, 
you last lost your own voice there : what silence in the water, 
what bird-smoke, what rough circle in our language has  
brought us back to here ? 

Dear friend, what is the use of speech : 
I now asking of you questions you can no longer reach – 
yet as you drift off to the snow-hole of your hills I hear 
you say “they are ever returning to us, the dead” –  
Max, I am listening …  

Stephen Watts, 17/19 December 2001 (& early January 2002) 

Books mentioned in this blog post