English Erfahrungsbericht Memoir

Dani Shapiro – Inheritance

Meta: During the weeks of isolation I’ve been thinking a lot about a concept that I now call idyllic illusions. (I don’t know if anyone else uses this term in any other meaning.) As an example I want to describe the thoughts that I had about the perfect place to live. I was dreaming about a small house with a little garden (in Austria this is called Schrebergarten), so I could sit outside, enjoy the weather, grow vegetables and herbs in the garden and so on. Around easter I took a few hours to clean the balcony of my flat (I’m currently living in a flat on the first floor of a building with 6 other flats in the house). During these cleaning sessions I realized, how much work it would be to have a garden and how much I hate all the work that is involved with maintenance of a living space. I like the idea of growing vegetables (I’ve done so for the last few years in a raised bed at my parent’s place) but I don’t really like the work. The thought of lawn-mowing makes me cringe immediately.

The idyllic illusion of moments of this imagined life has been haunting me again and again in the past years. And it’s not the only one. The white dress and the perfect wedding day is another of these idyllic illusions. I have been to many weddings and I don’t wish to have that for myself anymore. But I still feel a longing for this idyllic illusion when I watch a wedding on TV.

One reason for this is maybe the concept of the moment. Isolated moments can seem perfect and it’s easy to imagine them. What we usually don’t imagine is the whole thing. The whole day, week, month, year, life around these solitary perfect moments. Until now this insight hasn’t helped me to let go of these idyllic illusions but it may be one step on the way.

You’ll never know was unacceptable. You’ll never know simply could not be what I was left with in the end. Who was I without my history?

Sucessful author Dani Shapiro takes a genome test and discovers that her father is not really her biological father. What follows are months of searching for her identity and trying to find out about the circumstances of her own conception. Both her parents have died some years ago, asking them directly is out of the question.

Instead of a false narrative, there would be an infinity of narratives.

She describes a feeling of losing herself, as if the family she knew to be hers had vanished in the one moment she found out about her genetic heritage. Her jewish roots now seem at least half wrong although the rabbi confirms that she „is still jewish“.

It would be easy to fantasize that this would have been better. But we can never know what lies at the end of the path not taken.

The author wonders a lot about why her parents never told her the truth or if they even knew it themselves. How could they have kept such a secret through all those years? Dani Shapiro finally has to settle on presumptive evidence. Lots of research on the practice of artificial insemination leads her to a place where she is able to accept that whatever her parents knew, they made their decisions out of love and longing for a child.

That book idea that I mentioned in the last post, I don’t think I will be able to write it. While I admire how many memoir writers dissect their lifes and feelings I can’t imagine making myself vulnerable in such a way.