One fall afternoon while reading The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald, the following narrative moved me to tears:
Father managed to get a visa for me by bribing the English consul. So my things were packed and on the seventeenth of May, Mother’s fiftieth birthday, my parents took me to the airport and sent me to London. Uncle Leo met me. Uncle, given the funds at his disposal, found me a third-rate public school. Life at school gave me a sense of freedom I had not known until then. That being so, it grew steadily harder for me to write my letters home or to read the letters that arrived from home every fortnight. The correspondence became more of a chore and when the letters stopped coming I was relieved at first. Only gradually did it dawn on me that I would never again be able to write home.
In this passage it is 1941 in Nazi-occupied Germany. Jewish parents send their 12 year old son to England to live with an uncle in hopes of saving him from the Nazi’s. The young boy starts a new life that involves schoolwork, making friends, and a myriad of other adolescent preoccupations. He doesn’t fully comprehend the gravity of the situation his parents face as Jews in Nazi Germany, and he begins to find it a “chore” to write home every fortnight. Eventually letters from his parents stop coming. At first he is “relieved.” It dawns on him gradually, as does the heartbreaking knowledge that his parents have been captured and killed, that he “would never again be able to write home.”
I was deeply touched by the weight of this story, so I went out for a walk. While contemplating the gravity of life I noticed a string flung over a wall with a rock tied to the end of it. I understood it to be a simple counterweight to something mysterious hanging on the other side, but the symbolism catalyzed my feelings in such a profound way that I felt inspired to do a series of drawings titled "The Weight of Things." The drawings speak to the human condition—to our freedom on the one hand, and to the gravity of what we carry on the other. For the small boy in Sebald’s story, temporary relief from the burden of corresponding with his parents became tethered to the weighted stone of grief that he would carry for the rest of his life.
Each drawing is 8.5"x8.5". The rectangular ones are slightly larger.