On the Natural History of Destruction

by W.G. Sebald.

An extended essay on the ‘scandalous deficiency’ of texts about the Allied bombing of Germany.

On the Natural History of Destruction

This is an astonishing book. I put off reading it for ages, due to the specialist nature of its thesis: the paucity of German texts about the Allied bombing of Germany in the Second World War. But I have become something of a Sebald completist recently, so thought it was time to take the plunge. I am so glad that I did.

Sebald argues his case clearly and unemotionally. He then goes on to describe examples of writers describing the Allied bombings, and where these descriptions fall short. Then, most brilliantly, he shows how understated, ‘unpretentious objectivity’ is the the most effective way to convey indescribable horror.

Reading this book made me appreciate far better what Sebald was up to in his other masterpieces, The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants, Vertigo, and Austerlitz. Which now gives me the perfect excuse to go back and re-read them again.

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