torsdag, oktober 06, 2005

Germs: A Memoir of Childhood av Richard Wollheim

As a child, I loved lists of all sorts, and found that all sorts of things could be listed. I listed the sails on a windjammer, not knowing how they worked, and the names of philosophers, not knowing what they were, and, a particular source of pleasure, the names of royal mistresses and of royal favourites, not knowing how they earned their keep. I listed the flags of the different nations, and their capital cities, and the rivers on which these cities stood. I listed butterflies, and the names of Napoleonic marshals, and shirtmakers in London, in Paris, in Venice. When on a journey I had, as a matter of singular urgency, to list in what became a succession of small red notebooks the names of the places we went through, often with a pencil that went blunt when I needed it most, I learned out of necessity countless ways in which place names could be discovered by a small boy sitting in the back seat of a car, and craning his neck so as to see out of the window. There were the wasp-coloured AA signs, there was the writing over the local post office, there were ancient milestones, and, in many counties, signposts had a finial, cone-shaped or circular, giving the name of the nearest town or village. To grown-ups, or those I met, these clues were unknown, or were so until the war came and they were ostentatiously swept away so as not to give assistance to enemy parachutists, but to a small boy, always in doubt that he had been anywhere unless he could write the name down with a pencil in a notebook, these signs had a value born of desperation. And, of all these lists, the most necessitated - though, even if I could have, I never would have entrusted it to paper - was a catalogue of the various ways in which the unreliability, the incontinence, of the body forced itself on my attention. I memorised the different shapes, and colours, and outlines, sharp or blurred, with which scabs, and bruises, and grazes, can mark the skin, nor was I content until I also had a mental list of the yet more formless stains that shame a child's underclothing as the secretions of the body spread outwards, and I would try to commit them to memory even as, in the sanctuary of the lavatory, I endeavoured to remove their physical traces.

Germs: A Memoir of Childhood minns hur obekvämt det är att vara barnet Richard Wollheim, människa. Kroppen passar inte, rummet passar inte kroppen, känslor som inte passar sig. Mycket finns att vara rädd för, orden finns inte att beskriva, förståelsen finns inte för att förstå. Klumpigt, pissigt, nojigt, pinsamt, svagt. Babblande obekant mamma, pappa som blir utråkad i barnets sällskap. Kärlek skräck.

Fear, so far from making a coward of me, calls upon me to flee safety, as though it is only so long as there is safety that danger exists.

Germs är en osannolikt bra bok, öppet, personligt insiktsfullt stort jobbigt och roligt.
Richard Wollheim

Germs: A Memoir of Childhood. 2004. The Waywiser Press: ISBN: 0-375-41169-0

Läs mer:
Wollheim makes clear that "everything I have lived through either has been completely forgotten or is as yesterday". Passages of childhood offer themselves to his adult inspection in hallucinatory detail, and with a sense that if something is remembered it is for a reason.
The digested tract
Alan Hollinghurst is fascinated by Richard Wollheim's complex and beautiful memoir of childhood, Germs