Thursday, January 8, 2009

Beyond the Grave

A stray reference today in the New York Review of Books made me wonder what had become of W.G. Sebald's daughter. I knew that she was with him in the car in England in December of 2001 when the car crashed and Sebald died. I knew that Sebald's daughter was a grown woman and that she was seriously injured in the crash. But I could not remember ever hearing anything more about her, and I wondered if she had even survived.

Some reports I found on the internet actually said that the daughter had also died in the crash. But the majority of reports agreed that she was seriously injured, but recovered. She was 28 at the time of the crash and Sebald was driving her back to her home, after she had visited her parents at their home, and the implication was that the two homes were not very far apart. I found out that the daughter's name is Anna and that at the time of the accident she was a primary school teacher.

I learned that Sebald's mother back in Bavaria was still alive at the time of his death. His father had died sometime earlier, the former Nazi officer. I also came across several interviews with Sebald and obituaries of Sebald and tributes to Sebald that I had not read before. Whenever anybody asked him about his wife and his daughter he would forthrightly refuse to talk about them and assert that they were entitled to their privacy.

Who can argue with that? Of course they are entitled to their privacy, so I will resolve only to wonder how they are faring. Sebald died at the age of 57. He most probably had a heart attack in the car which caused him to lose control of the car and let it swerve into the path of an oncoming tanker-trunk. Apparently the autopsy could not determine whether Sebald actually had a heart attack in the car or not. The coroner determined that Sebald did have a weak heart and opined that Sebald may not have known of this.

Sebald's daughter Anna, presuming she is still alive, would be 35 by now. Sebald himself would be 64 if he had lived. Accidentally I discovered an extremely creepy page on MySpace which asserts as a fact that he IS 64 years old – a fan recently set it up as if Sebald himself were still alive and (even more preposterous) a participant in the groovy world of online social networking. People posted birthday greetings to him on the MySpace page (some in German, some in English) to mark his 64th birthday. It is the new Eternal Life, I guess.