Benjamin Markovits writes:
In the fourth section of The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald (or rather, his narrative alter ego) travels back to Germany from Norwich to look into the childhood of Max Ferber, an artist based loosely on Frank Auerbach. At 15 Ferber had been sent to England by his parents, who were eventually murdered in the camps at Riga. Sebald finds the silence of the people he encounters weird and unsettling: ‘I felt increasingly that the mental impoverishment and lack of memory that marked the Germans, and the efficiency with which they had cleaned everything up, were beginning to affect my head and my nerves.’ Yet the reaction of Germans to the terrible things in their recent past continued to fascinate him. It isn’t easy writing about the Holocaust – artists work with proportions, and the Holocaust distorts all proportions – but Sebald turned the ‘after silence’ into a rich subject.