How does literature of our time confronts the ultimate traumas of Modernity and Postmodernity, those things that deny any expression, that occur in bleak spaces before the words and beyond the words? This parallel reading of Austerlitz
(2001), Sebald’s last novel, and 2666
, Bolano’s posthumously published grand narrative (2004), will trace the ways in which both authors consciously violate the form of the novel, the readers’ horizons of expectation, capacity for empathy and identification. The silences, the voids, the unsolved crimes and the failed endings will be in the main focus – from the missing story of a Jewish-Czech mother lost in the ‘exemplary’ camp of Therezin to the hundreds of dead bodies of women murdered in Sonora desert; from Eastern Europe of 1930/40s to the North-West of Mexico from the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st
century. In their core, the last novels of Sebald and Bolano focus on mass violence and death while at the same time enact the failure of literature and art to deal with the inexpressible. Failure which seems to be the only chance to reject the ready clichés of sublime and fictional and point at the ruins of humanity here and now.
Bilyana Kourtasheva, Post-Doc in Theory and History of Literature, New Bulgarian University, Sofia; Krzysztof Michalski Junior Visiting Fellow, IWM