Collective Guilt  

W. G. Sebald, on a physical manifestation of collective guilt:

“And indeed, to this day one sees in Belgium a distinctive ugliness, dating from the time when the Congo colony was exploited without restraint and manifested in a macabre atmosphere of certain salons and the strikingly stunted growth of the population, such as one rarely comes across elsewhere. At all events, I well recall that on my first visit to Brussels in December 1964 I encountered more hunchbacks and lunatics than normally in a whole year.”

“At the far end of the room, in the dim light that entered by the Belgian bulls’-eye panes, sat a hunchbacked pensioner. She was wearing a woollen cap, a winter coat made of thick burled material, and fingerless gloves. The waitress brought her a plate with a huge piece of meat. The old woman stared at it for a while, then produce from her handbag a small, sharp knife with a wooden handle and began to cut it up. She would have been born, it occurs to me now, at about the time that the Congo railway was completed.”

The Rings of Saturn, pp. 123, 127.

» Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013