WG Sebald, “Ambros Adelwarth”:
“At this point, Ambros’s entries continue regardless of the dates in his diary. No one, he writes, could conceive of such a city … Every walk full of surprises, and indeed of alarm. The prospects change like the scenes in a play. One street lined with palatial buildings ends at a ravine. You go to a theatre and a door in the foyer opens into a copse…”
In Constantinople, Ambros becomes unmoored in space & time. Then, catching sight of Mount Olympus, “for one awful heartbeat” he imagines himself to be back in Switzerland “or at home again”. Later in life he tumbles into depression and presents himself voluntarily at the asylum, where they steadily wipe his brain clean with ECT. The reader ends up crying, without entirely knowing why.
Every time I read, I dredge up the same piece of knowledge about myself: I prefer books about lost people to books about found ones. It’s always a surprise.