"You must read Austerlitz," they said, until it became like a mantra, so that inside I began to build up a resistance to the book, without even once having laid eyes on it. When too many people repeat the same sound, I seek other sounds and walk way.
Yet, like all people through the ages, even those who claim that we live in a world that can be explained, I have often wondered how much I decide and how much is preordained, and, if preordained, by what. On some days, I insist that my journeys are of my own making, and on others this insistence seems a deficiency of the will to see.
A friend finally brought Austerlitz to me, and, as an act of resistance, which today I understand as fear of self-recognition, I kept it under a pile of other books, though its haunting black and white cover seemed to fly out of the pile like a genie that cast a spell over my thoughts.
One day, when the force of what must happen became too great to be held back, I began to read and came to a passage in one of the early chapters that explained everything:
"Since my childhood and youth...I have never known who I really was. From where I stand now, of course, I can see that my name alone, and the fact that it was kept from me until my fifteenth year, ought to have put me on the track of my origins, but it has also become clear to me of late, why an agency greater than or superior to my own capacity for thought, which circumspectly directs operations somewhere in my brain, has always preserved me from my own secret, systematically preventing me from drawing the obvious conclusions and embarking on the inquiries they would have suggested to me. It hasn't been easy to make my way out of my own inhibitions, and it will not be easy now to put the story into anything like proper order." - Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald (Penguin 2001), pp. 60-61
It was Austerlitz's story, but it was also mine.