Friday, June 22, 2012

Guilt

"One word evokes the other: Schulden, Schuld, debts, guilt. Two words so close and so deeply rooted in the soil of the German language.

But while debts can be mitigated by instalment payments, long-term as they may be, guilt - whether proven, presumed, or concealed - remains, ticking on and on, and holds its place, even on journeys to nowhere. It says its piece, fears no repetition, is mercifully forgotten for a time, hibernates in dreams. It remains as sediment - not a stain to be removed or to be wiped away.

Penitent, it learns early to seek refuge in the shell of an ear, to think of itself as beyond the statute of limitations, as long since forgiven, as smaller than small, next to nothing, yet there it is, as the onion sheds skin after skin, permanently inscribed on the youngest skins, now in capital letters, now in subordinate clause or footnote, now clear and legible, now in barely decipherable hieroglyphics.  The brief inscription meant for me reads: I kept silent."

Peeling the Onion - A Memoir. Page 28
G√ľnter Grass [Nobel Prize for Literature 1999]

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