The Paradox of the Memoir in Will Self’s Walking to Hollywood and W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn


  • Martin Gleghorn Durham University


W. G. Sebald, Will Self, Ecocriticism, Memoir, Memory


Focusing on W. G. Sebald’s 1995 work The Rings of Saturn and Will Self’s 2010 work Walking to Hollywood, this essay examines the ways in Sebald and Self portray the memoir as a genre of writing that is necessary on a personal level, despite the fact that they are both notably conscious of the fact that the act of charting their experiences is an inherently futile one. For both writers, this futility is the logical end product of the combination of entrapment and isolation that characterises modern existence. In turn, this paper will analyse the various historical, cultural, psychological and physical factors that catalyse such melancholy for Sebald and Self, and in discussing these factors aims to come full circle by uncovering why it is that the need to document one’s life experiences becomes such an essential one.


Download data is not yet available.


Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: Free Press, 1973. Print.

Blanchot, Maurice. The Step Not Beyond. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992. Print.

Cohen, Stanley. States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001. Print.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone, 1995. Print.

Harrison, Michael John. ‘Walking to Hollywood by Will Self’. The Guardian 18.9.2010. Web. 17 Feb. 15.

Hulme, Peter and Youngs, Tim (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Long, Jonathan James. W. G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Print.

Sebald, Winfried Georg. The Rings of Saturn. London: Vintage, 2002. Print.

Self, Will. Junk Mail. London: Bloomsbury, 1995. Print.

--. Walking to Hollywood. London: Bloomsbury, 2010. Print.

--. ‘I had planned to write Jaws without the shark’. The Guardian 22.8.2014. Web. 17 Feb. 15.

The RSA. ‘RSA Replay: Let’s talk about death’. YouTube 23.6.2014. Web. 17 Feb. 15.

Wallace, David Foster. ‘A Conversation with David Foster Wallace by Larry McCaffery’, Dalkey Archive Press. Web. 17 Feb. 15.





How to Cite

The Paradox of the Memoir in Will Self’s Walking to Hollywood and W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. (2015). Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English, 30.