I could not, however, stop the pictures from coloring my impressions of the book. When Sebald includes a picture of an agenda book on page 127, I wanted to believe it was Ambros’s agenda book. I wanted to pick it up and feel the cracked leather against my skin. When Sebald begins integrating descriptions of the photos or references to them into the text, the pictures naturally merge more fully with the story. This happens on page 71 when Sebald writes, “The photograph that follows here, for example, was taken in the Bronx in March 1939” and he goes on to name the people in the photograph.
What is most interesting about the photographs is that although I was wary of them throughout the book, on the very last page when Sebald describes a photograph from a Frankfurt exhibition, writing, “Behind the perpendicular frame of a loom sit three young women, perhaps aged twenty….Who the young women are I do not know,”, I wanted desperately to see that picture. I had begun to take for granted the photographic “evidence” peppered throughout the text and when he describes most fully and tantalizingly this one photo, I wanted to see it.
I am still undecided as to whether or not to use images in my own text. I am suspicious that I want to fall back on pictures to make the story feel more true. Until I can find a better reason, I think I may omit them.
If this review made you want to read the book, pick up a copy of The Emigrants from Powell’s Books. Your purchase keeps indie booksellers in business and I receive a commission.
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