The Rings of Saturn

“In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.”

For the 8th CSB podcast, and the second in our East Anglian trilogy, we’re in Suffolk, following in the footsteps of German writer W.G. ‘Max’ Sebald as he walked from the little town of Somerleyton to the bleak prospects of Orford Ness, taking in a spectacular sweep of European history (most of it awful) on the way.

At the little railway station of Somerleyton, we start to suspect that all is not what it seems with Sebald’s journey, as we uncover an egregious case of not being able to tell one’s left from one’s right. We also ponder whether Sebaldians have actually read this book in quite as close a way as we intend to. In addition, we wonder if they are Sebaldians or Sebaldists.

Amid the ruins of Blundeston Prison, we ponder the fate of Reggie Kray, and imagine him waving at Sebald from the windows of his cell, and whether Sebald would even have known who he was.

In Lowestoft (where, according to Sebald, ’nearly a quarter of the population is now practically illiterate’) we hazard a guess at which hotel Max stayed in – and again wonder if he’s got his directions backwards.

Amid the ruins of Covehithe, we find the pigs that Sebald stroked as he walked by, and see the beach where he saw a couple ‘in the bottom of the pit’, amid the leafless trees collapsing into the sea.

In Southwold, we visit the extraordinary Sailors’ Reading Room, and we try (and fail) to track down Sebald’s claimed ‘Chinese’ steam train, while pondering how Max would have edited Wikipedia.

As we reach the end of our journey, we fail to get lost on Dunwich Heath, in the shadow of Sizewell B, and, just as spectacularly, we fail to find the model of the Temple of Herod on a farm in the flatlands of Suffolk.

“I think once more of our history, which is but a long account of calamities.”

Sources & credits

Carl Jung, ‘Death Is Not The End’:
Gabriel Fauré, ‘Requiem, Op. 48 – Movement V. Agnus Dei’. Performed by Harry Christophers; The Sixteen, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields:
ITV News, Blundeston Prison Closure:
Blundeston Prison: Inside Reggie Kray’s old prison cell, by Laurence Cawley:
David Bowie on Death, Violence and Chaos in “Outside”:
Monty Python, ‘The Meaning of Life: Death’:
The Sixth Sense:
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) – We’re Dead Dude:
The Book Thief, Death’s prologue:
Time Team – Season 19, Episode 3 – The Drowned Town (Dunwich, Suffolk):]
Meet Joe Black – Death and Taxes:

Sebald’s Ghosts : Travelling Among the Dead in The Rings of Saturn. / Cooke, Simon.
In: Journeys: The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2, 2010, p. 50-68.
Sandra Newman on Sebald:

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