Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fake Chinese trains

This is probably not the sort of thing one admits to, but I felt somewhat let down when I read this bit of mythbusting re W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn, one of my favorite books:
"Well," says Gee, whose last film was the award-winning 2007 documentary Joy Division, "I've spoken to Southwold trainspotters and they say the train, which last ran in the late 1920s, wasn't Chinese. It didn't have the imperial dragon motif on it that Sebald claimed. Perhaps he made up that story so he could go off on a meander about China." [...] And anyway, how likely is it that a train designed as a Chinese emperor's plaything would end up in East Anglia?

Of course no one expects Sebald's work to be entirely factual, but to foist a Chinese railway on the East Anglian countryside one needs, I think, to have a better excuse than a set-piece about China that's missing a lead-in. The entire Chinese train passage seems to me to belong to the class "observations that are neat only if true." But this is a first impression (one could argue that this is a dreamlike, "magical-realist" cousin of the other ruins he finds) and maybe I'm just irritated at myself for not having spotted the fabrication...

Incidentally the linked Guardian article is about a movie that's been made based on The Rings of Saturn. I look forward to the movie and the rest of the tenth-anniversary stuff that's probably scheduled for next year.

No comments: