notes on dutch literature

Shadowchild – A Meditation on Love and Loss

In Pick of the Week on December 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Loss baby
Missing word. A woman who buries her husband is called a widow, a man left behind without his wife, a widower. A child without parents is an orphan. But what do you call the father and mother of a child that has died?

Shadowchild is an extraordinarily moving yet unsentimental examination of a parent’s grief over the loss of a child. P.F. Thomése’s baby was just a few weeks old when she died of a brain hemorrhage, and suddenly a piece of his life and heart was gone. But how do you recall that which is missing? How can we replace that which is lost? In powerful prose, he describes how he and his wife prepared for her birth; he remembers the first night they all three slept in the same bed. And after her death, Thomése finds himself desperately seeking the appropriate words to express his desolation. But he feels that “If she still exists anywhere, then it’s in language.” And so he begins to search for a new language to describe a grief that is too terrible to fit into everyday words.

At once a declaration of love, an elegy and a self-examination, Shadowchild is a profoundly moving mediation on love, death and personal tragedy.

Shadowchild is published by Bloomsbury (UK) and by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (USA, 2005), translation by the talented Sam Garrett.

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