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Distributed for Seagull Books

Air Raid

Translated by Martin Chalmers with an Afterword by W. G. Sebald

Distributed for Seagull Books

Air Raid

Translated by Martin Chalmers with an Afterword by W. G. Sebald

A powerful work by the heralded writer, this collection is a touchstone event in German literature of the post-war era.

On April 8, 1945, several American bomber squadrons were informed that their German targets were temporarily unavailable due to cloud cover. As it was too late to turn back, the assembled ordnance of more than two hundred bombers was diverted to nearby Halberstadt. A mid-sized cathedral town of no particular industrial or strategic importance, Halberstadt was almost totally destroyed, and a then-thirteen-year-old Alexander Kluge watched his town burn to the ground. 

Incorporating photographs, diagrams, and drawings, Kluge captures the overwhelming rapidity and totality of the organized destruction of his town from numerous perspectives, bringing to life both the strategy from above and the futility of the response on the ground. Originally published in German in 1977, this exquisite report, fragmentary and unfinished, is one of Kluge’s most personal works and one of the best examples of his literary technique.
The English edition of Air Rair includes additional new stories by the author and features an appreciation of the work by W. G. Sebald.
“More than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements. None are without great interest.”—Susan Sontag

138 pages | 44 line drawings | 5 1/2 x 7 3/4 | © 2014

The Seagull Library of German Literature


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“An accomplished filmmaker as well as a novelist, Kluge was trained as a lawyer and studied cultural theory with Theodor Adorno. An attorney’s reserve and gravitas are evident throughout his work. The harnessed energy is incorporated in various forms. . . . In Air Raid, one voice is followed by another—the testimonies of survivors, observations of reporters, explanations by American officers.”

On the Seawall

“An extraordinary book by an extraordinary artist, Air Raid might be seen less as a reckoning with the second world war as a manual for grappling with manufactured realities and media-filtered landscapes in the age of the drone.”

Financial Times

“Excellently and integrally translated. . . . Exquisite. . . . This multimedia work was ahead of its time, and it’s still effective; as long as aerial militarism continues to rain misery on millions, Air Raid remains timely.”

Rain Taxi

“A small masterpiece of exploratory fiction.”

Verso Books

Table of Contents

The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8 April 1945

What Does ‘Really’ Mean in Retrospect? 17 More Stories About the Air War

Dragonflies of Death

Commentary on ‘Dragonflies of Death’

The Dragonfly

The Long Paths to Knowledge

What Does ‘Really’ Mean in Retrospect?

Love 1944

Cooperative Behaviour

Fires Inside People

Zoo Animals in the Air Raids

What Holds Voluntary Actions Together?

Fire Brigade Commander W. Schönecke Reports

The Run-Up to the Catastrophe

Inexplicable Reactions in Sandstone Rock

How the ‘Flying Fortresses’ Disappeared in Lake Constance

The Gleam in the Enemy’s Eye

Total Toothache

News of Star Wars

W. G. Sebald

Between History and Natural History.

On the Literary Description of Total Destruction. Remarks on Kluge


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