By the time you were born I understood, in a way that I could not have with Uri, just what the birth of a child means. How he grows, and how his innocence is slowly ruined, how his features change forever the first time he feels shame, how he comes to learn the meaning of disappointment, of disgust. How a whole world is contained inside of him, and it was mine to lose. I felt powerless against these things. And of course you were a different kind of child than Uri. From the beginning you seemed to know things and to hold them against me. As if you somehow understood that built into raising a child are inevitable acts of violence against him. Looking down into the crib at your tiny face contorted by screams of grief — there is nothing else to call it, I’ve never heard any baby cry like you —I was guilty before I’d even begun. I know how this sounds; after all you were only a baby. But something about you attacked the weakest part of me, and I backed away. Nicole Krauss, Great House,
Tag Archives: guilt
She [Hilary Mantel] lost her religious faith at age 12 and says that this left a permanent mark on her: the “real cliche, the sense of guilt. You grow up believing that you’re wrong and bad. And for me, because I took what I was told really seriously, it bred a very intense habit of introspection and self-examination and a terrible severity with myself. So that nothing was ever good enough. It’s like installing a policeman, and one moreover who keeps changing the law.