The Rings of Saturn opens on to a dizzy range of allusions and illusions

WG Sebald’s beguiling narrative takes in an enormous collection of different topics at the same time as playing seductive games with fact and fiction

Here’s a rough list of the different topics WG Sebald touches on during the first 10 pages of The Rings of Saturn:

A walk in Suffolk, undertaken by Sebald himself.

Post-work “emptiness”.

A superstition about ailments that assail you “under the sign of the Dog Star”.

Sebald’s hospitalisation in Norwich.

The view from Sebald’s hospital bed.

The nature of reality.

Gregor Samsa.

Norwich rooftops at twilight.

Michael Parkinson, a UEA academic who studied Charles Ramuz.

Parkinson’s walking holidays, and his death.

The death of Romance languages lecturer, Janine Dakyns, and her interest in 19th-century French novels.

Gustave Flaubert.

Stupidity. Everywhere.


Africa, the Mediterranean, the Iberian peninsula, the Tuileries gardens, a suburb of Rouen, the Sahara.



The angel in Dürer’s Melencolia I.

Surgeon and medical historian Anthony Batty Shaw.

Thomas Browne – particularly his skull.

Hydrocephalic foetuses.

The church of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich.

The exhumation of Browne and the afterlife of his mortal remains.

Urn Burial.

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