Why did Sebald title his work The Rings of Saturn

                In the epigraph there is a scientific definition of the rings of (the planet) Saturn. The theory states that the rings of Saturn are the fragments of a former moon, disintegrated by tidal force. In other words, an invisible power (gravity) led to the moon’s dissolution, thus creating an all-together new identity as a circle or ring. The relationship here, is ripe for metaphoric reaping. For what more is Sebald doing in Rings of Saturn than cataloguing the insistence of man to manipulate the mortality of forms through his preponderance of ideas. The rings of Saturn is a novel about the epiphenomenon of corporal existence, that is the disease (or wellspring for those inclined toward self-deception or God) of human consciousness and its infectious proliferation within the objective world. Or, a less nihilistic thesis could be something like: The Rings of Saturn is a novel about the triumphs and tribulations of the human being, and his or her necessity (possibly due to a priori affliction) to fictionalize his or her existence in the face of incessant ceasing. What follows is an example of the aforementioned infection and/or fictionalization, commonly referred to as metaphor, here unfolded for the further enrichment of our literary minds.

                Let us take the idea of Saturn and allow ourselves to manipulate it with our imaginations. Now I’m asking you to play the part of poet here. So if you’re a scientist, with an insufferable insouciance to categorize, dissect and cauterize, may I offer you my shallowest of apologies, for the following trajectory is one that leaps. So then, the planet Saturn. A liquid, gaseous, and flittering being, whose very existence itself rests on its movement and whose vast expanse and gravity more than makes up for its instability. Saturn is the human mind. Next, let us imagine the rings of Saturn. A disintegrated oneness, whose essence is indiscernible, lost to the procession of what could be trillions of particulars in endless cycle.  Saturn’s rings are the world. And just like the world, Saturn’s rings, although stemming from a singularity, are definable only by the relationship of its constituent parts, of which, as a particular system, the planet Saturn itself is also part. Thus, Saturn is dependent on its rings and vice versa, as just the same can be said for the mind and the world. And just as the relationship of the human mind, within a body, is a singular entity stuck in the middle of an endless and inescapable cycle of particles coming and going but ultimately staying the same, so is the relationship between Saturn and its rings. But could the rings of Saturn exist without Saturn? Could the world exist without the mind? Or perhaps a more interesting question is this: Within the confines of the given metaphor, that being Saturn as mind and Saturn’s rings as the world, could we not flip the identities of the two, that being Saturn as the world and Saturn’s rings as the mind, and still have a metaphor of no less power or meaning?  Furthermore, what if neither Saturn nor its rings were victims of cycle? What if Saturn, trapped as it is within its rings, gained consciousness, not dissimilar to humanities, and wished for linearity, for the subsistence of a singular point or line? Perhaps this is the question that Sebald is grappling with: humanity’s need, inherent or not, to formulate practicality and linearity within a system which is only flux, endless becoming. Perhaps the human being ought to be, or simply is, a rebel: Cause and effect his weaponry, dreams his auxiliary, and memory, simultaneously his panacea and bacteria against an endless onslaught of wounds, in the fight to become…