1st Edition

Perpetrators’ Legacies Post-imperial Condition in Sebald and McEwan

By Vladimir Biti Copyright 2025
    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    The book presents Winfried Georg Sebald and Ian McEwan as paradigmatic post-imperial writers who, enmeshed in the hierarchies of power inherited from their imperial times, strive to disentangle themselves from that burdensome legacy. To achieve this, they undertake a subtle detachment from the analogously implicated subject positions of their protagonists. In Sebald’s works, these positions are closer to the historical victims of the Third Reich who used to suppress their past experiences, whereas in McEwan’s works they incline toward the systemic ‘beneficiaries’ of the British Empire who used to overlook their present privileges. However, in distinction to their protagonists’ denied involvements, both authors recognize their implication in their protagonists’ pasts and presents. Such a detachment from familiar protagonists requires the consent of unknown and scattered readers with whom they forge a long-distance solidarity, connective association or complicitous alliance. Thus, to exempt themselves from one complicity, they enter another one.


    Co-implicated literatures: Towards a revised understanding of world literature



    Section One

    Entangled legacies


    1. The long shadow of perpetrators: An undesired implication


    2. Purification and enclosure: Post-imperial condition in Germany and Great Britain



    Section Two

    W.  G. Sebald: Purifying the implicated self


    3. Purifying the implicated self: Sebald, Wittgenstein, Montaigne, and ‘care of the self’


    4. Getting out of history: Levitation and paralysis in Sebald and Nabokov


    5. Postmemory in action: (Re)creating the nodes of memory in The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz


    Section Three

    Ian McEwan: Longing for enclosure


    6. Yearning for the plot: Enclosure in Black Dogs


    7. Deprived of protection: The complicitous authorship in Atonement


    8. Mutual reassertion: Community drive and individual exemption in The Children Act





    Vladimir Biti is Chair Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna. He is the author of eleven books, with Tracing Global Democracy: Literature, Theory, and the Politics of Trauma, 2016 (second, paperback edition 2017), Attached to Dispossession: Sacrificial Narratives in Post-imperial Europe, 2018, and Post-imperial Literature: Translatio Imperii in Kafka and Coetzee, 2022 (paperback edition forthcoming) among the most recent. He is the editor of the volumes Reexamining the National-Philological Legacy: Quest for a New Paradigm, 2014, Claiming the Dispossession: The Politics of Hi/storytelling in Post-imperial Europe, 2017, and co-editor of The Idea of Europe: The Clash of Projections, 2021. He is co-editor of Arcadia: Journal of Literary Culture and Honorary President of the ICLA Committee on Literary Theory. From 2016-2022, he has been the Chair of the Academy of Europe’s Literary and Theatrical Section.