Ferber’s Posture

“The flood of memory, little of which remains with me now, began with my recalling a Friday morning some years ago when I was suddenly struck by the paroxysm of pain that a slipped disc can occasion, pain of a kind I had never experienced before. I had simply bent down to the cat, and as I straightened up the tissue tore and the nucleus pulposus jammed into the nerves. At least, that is how the doctor later described it. At that moment, all I knew was that I mustn’t move even a fraction of an inch, that my whole life had shrunk to that one tiny point of absolute pain, and that even breathing in made everything go black. Until the evening I was rooted in one place in a semi-erect position. How I managed the few steps to the wall, after darkness had fallen, and how I pulled the tartan blanket that was hanging on the back of the chair over my shoulders, I no longer remember. All I now recall is that I stood at that wall all night long with my forehead against the damp, musty plaster, that it grew colder and colder, that tears ran down my face, that I began to mutter nonsense, and that through it all I felt that being utterly crippled by pain in this way was related, in the most precise manner conceivable, to the inner constitution I had acquired over the years. I also remember that the crooked position I was forced to stand in reminded me, even in my pain, of a photograph my father had taken of me in the second form at school, bent over my writing.”

W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants

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