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George Szirtes's meetings with Austerlitz

Sears, John (2006) George Szirtes's meetings with Austerlitz. ISSN 1219-2589

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Abstract

This essay addresses two recent long poems by Hungarian-born English poet George Szirtes (“Backwaters: Norfolk Fields” and “Meeting Austerlitz”) to analyse their constructions of the literary friendship between Szirtes and his fellow writer, German-born W. G. Sebald. The poems are read through critical approaches informed by Blanchot, Derrida, and others, and through their connections with key precursor texts, to examine the complex interconnections they explore between themes of history and tradition, geography and place, text and canon and self and other. The essay argues that the two poems engage with a series of figures that ultimately offer literature itself as a shared space in which each writer finds a territory to substitute for that of home, while yet residing in a condition of exotic, displaced migrancy; the poems focus on language, writing and specific aspects of the English literary tradition in order to establish these spaces as grounds for a shared experience that transcends the irreducible singularity of the specific histories which each writer has, in radically different ways, encountered.

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