Saturn is the planet of melancholy, about which Walter Benjamin writes: “I came into the world under the sign of Saturn – the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays.” W. G. Sebald’s prose poetics seems to be driven by this motion, which is more than a simple state of being: it is a way of perceiving the world as well as a way of writing, perpetual transition, walk, halt, deviation from the road, getting lost and — finding the way back.
― Judit Pieldner “A Melancholy Journey through Landscapes of Transience”
Melancholy is a difficult subject to write about, because it is sometimes viewed in a scientific way (identified with clinical depression) and at other times in a poetic way. In the work of Sebald melancholy is an aesthetic phenomenon, visible in both theme and style. Just listen to this:
Everything round about rots, decays and sink into the ground. There are only two seasons: the white winter and the green winter. For nine months the ice-cold air sweeps down from the Arctic sea. The thermometer plunges to unbelievable depths and one is surrounded by a limitless darkness. During the green winter it rain week in week out. The mud creeps over the threshold, rigor mortis is temporarily lifted and a few signs of life, in the form of an all-pervasive marasmus, begin to manifest themselves. In the white winter everything is dead, in the green winter everything is dying.
“The melancholy can be black as suicide, gray as depression, white as emptiness and blue as mood. It may appear as fear, boredom, longing, fatigue, emptiness, anxiety, or a forced search for pleasure. However, there is always a lack or loss that lies beneath.”
― Karin Johannisson, Melankoliska rum: Om ångest, leda och sårbarhet i förfluten tid och nutid