The two-room hole. The family trap. Everything there conspired to constrain the weekend visitor. Not even the mother’s hand could smooth away the son’s distress. True, he was no longer expected to sleep in his parents’ bedroom, like his sister, but even on the couch made up for him in the living room he remained a witness to the married life that continued unbroken from Saturday to Sunday, that is, I could hear — or thought I could hear — sounds I had heard, muffled as they were, from childhood on, sounds that had lodged in my mind in the form of a monstrous ritual: the anticipatory whispers, the lip-smacking, the creaking bedsprings, the sighing horsehair mattress, the moaning, the groaning, the entire aural repertory of lovemaking, so potent, especially in the dark.

… Yet it is far from certain that the two of them went at it when the son lay awake on the couch within hearing range; in fact, it is more likely they took his presence into account and left each other alone. But the mere expectation of those noises in their more or less unchanging sequence was enough to keep me awake.

– from Günter Grass’s memoir, Peeling the Onion, translated by Michael Henry Heim

Submitted by David Dobbs, author of Reef Madness, which Oliver Sacks called “brilliantly written, sometimes almost unbearably poignant.” He writes the Neuron Culture blog for Wired. Twitter here. Tumblr here. Oh, and go read this Atlantic piece he wrote. It’s the seed for his next book.

David’s contribution is a good reminder that this blog welcomes submissions of your own original people-watching prose as well as favorite published passages from other writers, umlauted or not. As always, 200 words or less. Details here. Thanks.

(via stareandwrite)


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