Migrating from one waiting room to another

“Human rights

Having faith is lazy and coward. Lazy for assuming a story to be true without wanting to test it. Coward because one discards the doubt that is inherent to curiosity”, says Richard Dawkins, in an interview with Martijn van Calmthout in last Saturday’s Volkskrant.

Laziness and cowardice should be basic human rights. True heroism usually ends in death, and almost nobody wants to die.

Moreover, humanism is little more than christianity without Christ or the hereafter. Love and marriage are held together by faith and lack of curiosity.

Robbing people of their illusions for the good cause also is a matter of faith.

The human tendency to disdain, punish or reprove others always disguises itself as morality. In essence, we are dealing with a badly camouflaged inferiority complex. If only for this reason, I gladly let Dawkins indulge in his little crusade.”

(Arnon Grunberg, Mensenrechten, translated by Han-Wen Nienhuys. Source in Dutch: Voetnoot 26 October 2017)

“We couldn’t go back

We went to Geneva for my girlfriend’s last birthday, so we decided to go there again. We cling to our traditions, like many do, if not simply to avoid having to think everything through anew.

Shortly before we left, we had visited a couples therapist, and there, my girlfriend said she was afraid she would be stuck forever in the waiting room of the future. I thought it was sad that our life felt like a waiting room, but that’s what it was. Our joint future hadn’t even started, and I told the therapist that I liked to act alone, even when in company.

At Amsterdam Airport, my girlfriend lost her hat. She knew where she had left it, but we could not go back; we had boarded the plane, and they don’t allow returns for hats. The hat was tied to memories, and I proposed buying a new one as soon as we got to Switzerland, because I always want to make everything well. I don’t have a Messiah complex, but I entered this world to wipe faces clear of pain.

Recently, I heard of a hugging guru in India; an elderly lady who hugs everyone. Sometimes I imagine that I will gradually quit writing, and sit on a square, for example, the Dam, and that I will hug everyone who wants to be hugged. Every once in awhile, I will say something like: “You are a nice being. You are accepted as you are. Everything will be ok.” Because there is not much more to be said.

In Geneva, we took the train to Vevey. It truly was an indian summer, but darkness had already started falling, and on the train my girlfriend said she had a splitting headache and wanted to have dinner in our hotel room. I am not a room dinner person, but splitting headaches are a valid excuse. We turned out to have a balcony and since the evening was balmy, the gentleman from the hotel served our dinner on the little table on the balcony overlooking the lake.

Everything was gorgeous except for my girlfriend’s splitting headache, and while I observed her, I was wondering whether she was in a waiting room right now, whether we all aren’t in a waiting room together. This one appeared to be quite comfortable, even though she commented next morning: “I would have preferred to go higher up the mountains, I love nature.” I imagined all the people, migrating from one waiting room to another. “Everything still has to start”, I said to nobody in particular.”

(Arnon Grunberg, We konden niet meer terug, translated by Han-Wen Nienhuys. Source in DutchParool, September 2017)


Let’s talk about German rather than White innocence. Three of my four grandparents were gassed, the fourth had already died. My parents were expelled. Nevertheless, German continued to be their mother tongue and German culture continued to be their culture. Both were born in Berlin. Never did I hear them speak about the collective culpability of the Germans. To my mother, who survived multiple camps, it did not do justice to the complexities of the human experience: a Wehrmacht soldier who wanted to meet her again when peace returned. To my father, the speech by Von Weiszäcker on May 8th, 1985 was all too important: “everyone of us, guilty or not, old or young, have to accept the past”. Juggling with collective identities and concepts like innocence, and as a consequence, complicity and guilt, is dangerous. It is precisely the starting point of fascism. Let’s not forget: one of the foundations of nazism was the idea that Jewish innocence does not exist, not even in babies.”

(Arnon Grunberg, Onschuld, translated by Han-Wen Nienhuys. Source in DutchVoetnoot, 2 Dec 2017)

Vilhelm Hammershoi, “Interior Strandgade 30”, 1901

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