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November 11, 2010

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Jeff Donlan

Awkward, indeed. I have just barely started W.G. Sebald's "On the natural history of destruction," and the first lecture/essay touches on this kind of looking away. If we looked carefully at a nuclear war for what it really is, we would do everything in our power to prevent it. But we look away and use language like "awkward." Sebald's book promises to be fascinating. The summary: "During World War Two, 131 German cities and towns were targeted by Allied bombs, a good number almost entirely flattened. Six hundred thousand German civilians died—a figure twice that of all American war casualties. Seven and a half million Germans were left homeless. Given the astonishing scope of the devastation, W. G. Sebald asks, why does the subject occupy so little space in Germany’s cultural memory? On the Natural History of Destruction probes deeply into this ominous silence." Of course there was terrible aversion--the rats, the flies, the smell--but silence?

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