The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This famous aphorism from Requiem for a Nun could have been written by W. G. Sebald. Like Faulkner, Sebald believed we will never get anywhere until we reckon with where we have been. The German author grew up in Bavaria in a family and community that remained silent about its Nazi past, no matter how much he pressed the issue—especially with his father, a member of the Wehrmacht during World War II, who came home in 1947 as a released prisoner of war and kept quiet about where he had been and what he had done. In the new Speak, Silence: In Search of W. G. Sebald, Carole Angier can find no evidence that Sebald’s father was guilty of war crimes, but his son never forgave him for not admitting the guilt that post-war Germany ought to have expressed by at least...


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