Wednesday, May 12, 2010

W.G. Sebald | Austerlitz | 2001

My Dear Austerlitz,

Last week, on a trip back to the city from New Canaan, where I had spent a leisurely afternoon interviewing the nonagenarian widow of the architect Landis Gores, I found myself parched, and so made my way, driven by some kind of subconscious force, through the digestive system of Grand Central Terminal until I found myself sequestered on a banquet of burnished red leather in the Oyster Bar Saloon, where my thoughts could drift idly, perhaps aided by a rye whiskey neat, to the singular career of Gores, who was among the American serviceman stationed at Blechley Park during the war, and who participated in the codebreaking operation Ultra—which as you may recall broke the communications of the German High Command—before returning to the States to enter into architectural practice with Philip Johnson (reformed fascist), only to find his professional life cut short by a case of polio, one of the last before the introduction of Salk's vaccine, that left his body, half paralyzed—in all, i'm sure you will agree, a bizarrely tragic sequence of events, and one that put me in mind of your own history, given the convergence of themes: architecture, train stations, Nazis, meandering sentences that seem to go hither and tither, with no terminal point anywhere on the horizon. Anyway, hope you're tops!

Mark Lamster