Interviewing the Dead: Sebald’s Words

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Passages from a Sebald Interview, cut into words

The Searching for Sebald project was a landmark event for the ICI because it opened the door to a whole new toolbox for doing creative research. Sebald’s bricolage gave us permission to “play” more than we usually do. In this case, we transcribed an interview Sebald gave a few years before he died. We extracted his words, printed them to magnetic sheets and then cut them up to create our own version of the portable poetry kits that were so popular a few years back. While our initial impulse was to use the kit to add levity to the long and arduous period of book production, the toy quickly offered up patterns we had been unable to hear but could quickly see in our impromptu “responses”  including a list of Sebald’s favorite adjectives and a bestiary large enough to house a small zoo. We began to use this tool as a live doodle—a kind of Ouija Board—to create sentences for performative talks we give about Sebald.

We’ve dubbed this technic Interviewing the Dead. It is our belief that we draw from the same metaphors, favorite quotes, even similar sentence constructions every time we sit down to speak. And so, these words from Sebald’s mouth form a litany of possibility—of answers to questions we might have asked the dead author but also to other questions those answers might have hid in once melodic couplings, now undone.

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