“Under the wonderful influence of the painkillers coursing through me, I felt, in my iron-framed bed, like a balloonist floating weightless amidst the mountainous clouds towering on every side,” writes W. G. Sebald in Rings of Saturn, reprinted by New Directions in 2016 and translated from the German by Michael Hulse, in which an unnamed narrator speaks from a hospital bed about a trip he took walking across the landscape of Suffolk in England a year before. In the novel, Sebald’s narrator ruminates on a variety of subjects, including Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, the skull of seventeenth-century physician Thomas Browne, French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s relationship to sand, and the sudden death of his friend. Write a story in which the protagonist never physically moves, but mentally travels through a variety of seemingly disparate subjects. Be it art, world history, geography, or music, how do the anecdotes connect to your subject’s personal conflict?
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