What are the themes of Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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This novel is about the Kindertransport of the late 1930s, so one of the topics it is concerned with is world war and it's effects on citizens - particularly children. In the story a litle boy who is only five yeatrs of age is dispatched to Britain to be looked after by a host family. So we have another topic to explore - that of lonely children. Unfortunately, the coiuple the boy is placed with don't have any children of their own and they want him to forget who he is as he is now their child - at least in what might be the short term. So another topic is identity. The child has lost his own individuality because the new family try to wipe out his memories of his background. As he is growing up, he becomes absorbed by the new circumstances around him and starts to forget his previous life. He becomes a historian when he grows up, developing a particular interest in buildings. Another lesser topic could therefore be history and architecture. As an adult he evades the issue of of questioning his background but it comes looking for him and he has to examine the context of his own life, so reminiscence and discovery are two more thematic topics.

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