I read a book once:”Stripping Penguins Bare”, by Michael Carson.
Its about a gay man(like myself), with the same surname as myself, who studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University(like myself). Co-incidences; or.. what?
I later actually MET Michael Carson and recounted the similarities. He did not think i was mad nor a stalker!Him and I had never known each other before. The RATIONAL explanation: he is himself an openly gay man, who studied Englist Lit at Aberystwyth. But, despite this natural concatenation of similarities, it remains uncanny to me: by reading the book I RETURNED to one of my homelands/spiritual homes via fictive repetition(a pre-occupation of Sebald himself too, and the sebaldian narrators with which he peoples his prose fiction).
As I have SHOWN, without directly, fully EXPLAINING, I myself visited quite a lot of the places Austerlitz does in that book, many years BEFORE reading the book for the first time: the old, half-derelict, prior to re-furbishment Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool St station, Antwerp(though not the Central Station itself), and the Mawddach Estuary. So, in attempt to ESCAPE(ourselves), via reading, we actually sometimes RETURN to our homeland(s); which can be a positive return, to relive mainly happy memories(Aberystwyth), or a negative, disturbing, uncanny one: for example, a return to a feeling of rootlessnes and loss of self(or, more accurately, non-formation of a total self)in the City of London commercial area, in 1984, where my sense of malaise, whilst having more identifiable causes(seen clearly in RETROSPECT only), was not unlike the experience Sebald describes, for instance,on “Dunwich Heath”(“Rings of Saturn”): a disorientation, a vertigo.
So, in reading I/you might consciously, semi or SUBconsciously choose a book that brings us BACK to our OWn expriences, or a version thereof; and the book, will , to a degree, reflect them back. For example, I CHOSE, consciously to read “Jubilate” by Michael Arditti because the blurb promised an at least partial mirroring of my own experience; and, actually, rather than being overwhelmed by that re-iteration, got some comfort by feeling I was not alone. So we read books for self-orientated reasons too: for empathy with (versions of) ourseves.
This is a slight but significant difference from the “death of the author” set of theories.In this school there is no objective presentation of truth in fiction; but we”merely” impose our own individual subjective interpretations/experiences on it. Obviously this is an almost risibly extreme polarised position; but so is the opposed one, that of the “close reading” school:viz. there is ONE, objective meaning to be elucidated, “what the author MEANT”(?).Though I admit I slightly veer toward the “death of the author” school, being quite happy, to project my own experiences on the characters and psychologies of the characters, to a DEGREE,the truth does lie somewhere approaching the middle ground.
Yet This is DIFFERENT to a personal repetition; an uncanny resemblance to (PART of, usually!)0ne’s OWN experience, re/pre- gurgitated via someone else’s fictional vision.It is almost as if predetermined, as if awaiting you within the pages of someone else’s book, to be dicovered AGAIN in an uncanny repetition of one’s past. It is not merely the IMPOSING , by ME, the subject(“death of the author”) of own’s own experience on a fictional character or on an author.