07 February 2008

W G Sebald. The Rings of Saturn, 1998

W G Sebald. THE RINGS OF SATURN. Harvill Press, London, 1998. ISBN: 1860463983

Current Selling Prices
$1200-$1600 /£600-£800

Uncommon in hardback and valuable thus. However, you see ambitious prices on the simultaneous softback issue ('becoming increasingly difficult to find'). It even has an auction record with an unfortunate punter paying £190 for it at Bloomsbury in early 2004. It can now be found readily at a third of that price. The true first is, of course, the German 'Die Ringe des Saturn: Eine englische Wallfahrt' which came out in 1995. It appeared there first in a numbered limited edition (999 copies bound in goatskin) published by Eichborn and seems to have completely gone to ground. There are no copies currently for sale although it turns up occasionally at auction in Germany. Locus Solus catalogued one of the 999 (unsigned) at $650 a year or two back -it was described as being in full leather 'as new in publisher’s cardstock slipcase...bound in vegetable-dyed full east-Indian goatskin of deep blue.'

VALUE? I have a feeling that although he wrote in German his books are more admired in Britain and America. At one point his books were making exceptional sums on Ebay and people wanted ephemera, posters, recordings and anything to do with his legendary walk from Lowestoft to Boulge. Inscribed copies of 'Rings of Saturn' are not impossible but are treasured--it is known that he would pore for hours over his translations, making changes and then when inscribing copies of books for friends, he would habitually add some further textual changes by hand.

The hardback is pretty scarce but not in the same league as, say, 'Trainspotting' which went only to libraries. The hardback appeared in bookshops but only a few hundred were printed--they seem to show up in East Anglia more than anywhere else. There are four on the web at the moment priced between £750 and £1300 with only a German first signed by him. A great read--it takes a very special kind of erudition to make Lowestoft fascinating. Sebald died in a car crash near Poringland in Norfolk age 57 - Tim Adams wrote this of him in 'The Guardian':-
'... It has often been said that, in his brief, marvellous career, Sebald, writing from East Anglia, invented a genre all his own. The substance of that originality was a new way of looking at what remains of long-gone objects, people and events. All his books were imaginative exhumations, but they were given a curious urgency by his inspired and restless intelligence. His writing made the dead seem like news.'

Above is a page from the German edition that was omitted from the UK edition - it has a photo of the house of a Suffolk farmer that Sebald dropped in on. The man had devoted the last twenty years of his life to building a scale model of the Temple of Jerusalem.


terry said...

Better late than never... I've just written a post about your great blog, with special reference to the Sebald first edition of The Rings of Saturn. I've also added Bookride to my blogroll at http://sebald.wordpress.com. All the best!

Bookride said...

Thanks Terry--have added your excellent site on all matters Sebaldian to my burgeoning blogroll...N