The Pequod Review:
W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz tells the story of the title character, a Welshman who discovers in late middle-age that his parents were Prague Jews who saved him from the Holocaust by sending him to Wales where he was raised by foster parents. The discovery is shocking and traumatic to Austerlitz, and leads to severe isolation and depression: "At some point in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life." Austerlitz’s dislocation then becomes the reader’s, as Sebald’s digressive novel twists and turns in haunting and unsettling directions.
Austerlitz is probably Sebald’s most traditionally-structured book, and is comprised of a single narrative throughout. This isn’t entirely successful, as Sebald often has difficulty maintaining a consistent pacing and cohesive structure. Nonetheless, there are a number of exceptional scenes and passages, such as this description of the German Army entering Prague in 1939:
Next morning, at first light, the Germans did indeed march into Prague in the middle of a heavy snowstorm which seemed to make them appear out of nowhere. When they crossed the bridge and their armored cars were rolling up Narodní a profound silence fell over the whole city. People turned away, and from that moment they walked more slowly, like somnambulists, as if they no longer knew where they were going.
And this engrossing description of perception and memory:
It does not seem to me, Austerlitz added, that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like, and the longer I think about it the more it seems to me that we who are still alive are unreal in the eyes of the dead, that only occasionally, in certain lights and atmospheric conditions, do we appear in their field of vision.
Austerlitz may not rise to the level of Sebald's earlier masterpieces, but it is another awesome achievement of style and observation.