By Frederick Karinthy

My Baby


YOU want me to show you my son? Well, here he isójust a four months old baby, nothing to show about him, really. I know very well that most young fathers are prejudiced, their first child, you know, think the world of him, handsomest child in the world, cutest child in the world, and all that sort of rot. I canít understand them at all. Iím perfectly aware that my babyís no different from any other.

The most I can say is that heís better developed than most, but thatís all. Heís a healthy kid, just that and no more. Sound in wind and limb. Sound as a bell. But I see nothing extraordinary in that. Heís a perfectly normal child, and if there's anything abnormal about him, or almost abnormal, it is the fact that he has no defect of any kind. I often say to the missus, Gertie, I say, thereís something queer about this child; most other children have something the matter with them, one has six fingers on each hand, another has two heads, and so on, the medical press is full


of it, and this childís got everything in the right place, so that itís almost strange. Isnít that extraordinary? Thatís what I say to the missus, because you see, thatís the only thing, otherwise the child is no different from any other.

Except, of course, that Iím afraid heís developing a bit too fast. Just see the way he looks. He looks straight at you, doesnít he.

What? So do other babies? Of course they do. I know that. And thatís not really what I mean. But it seems to me that this child has a different look from other babies. He looks straight at you, straight into your face, if you know what I mean. He looks at you with his eyesó

Eh? What else should be look with? Why, donít be silly, I know he canít look with his ears because he canít see with them. But that isnít what I mean. What I mean is that heís never tried to see with his ears like other children, he looked with his eyes from the first, donít you know. I beg your pardon, how could he know when



he came into the world what he should look with? He was born with legs, wasnít he, yet he still doesnít know that theyíre for walking, and itíll take a long time before he does. Iím not at all prejudiced in favour of my own child, but just look at the way he follows me with his eyes when I walk away from him. Just watch. (The child does not look after him.)

You see, what did I tell you? He doesnít look after me because he doesnít want to. Isnít it wonderful that the little beggar should have a will of his own at four months? He doesnít wish to look, so he doesnít. Will power! Isnít it strange?

And he can hear, old chap, he can hear. He hears every word and takes notice. I donít mean that he just hears the sounds; oh, no, he can distinguish the words. Donít misunderstand me, I donít mean he can understand everything, Iím not so prejudiced, of course he canít understand, it would be ridiculous for a four months old baby to understand, what I really mean is that he can distinguish the words, and he knows what each word means.

You donít believe it? Well, what do you think of thisówhenever I say ootsie-wootsie he looks up


and laughs. Eh? Why should he laugh when I say that, unless he understood what it means? What?

You say you donít understand, either? Well, thatís whatís so wonderful about it. You donít understand and the child does. Watch. Ootsie-wootsie, ootsie-wootsie. . . . (Baby does not look up and does not laugh.)

Did you see that? The way his little mouth twitched? You see the idea, donít you? He was amused, but he suppressed his laughter. Other babies laugh like mad when they feel like it, but this one contracts his eyes, compresses his lips and holds it back. Iím not at all biased, mind you, but I must say this childís got self-respect, or shall I call it modesty or tact? Itís happened that he didnít laugh until I went away, then when he thought I couldnít see he began to laugh quietly to himself, a quiet, well-bred laugh, you know. Isnít that curious?

Iím not at all biased, but I really think heredity has a great deal to do with it. You know, these are mysterious things that few people understand, but some children are born with all sorts of things.† For instance my grandfather was a peculiar sort of man,


he could hypnotise other people, not that he put them to sleep, but when they asked a question he would just look into their eyes and they would know at once what answer was in his mind. Peculiar, isnít it?

What I mean by it? Why, Iíve noticed some peculiar things with this child. Sometimes, when I hold him in my arms like this, you see, like this, and I speak to him . . . well, of course, he doesnít reply, how could he, but he looks at me as though he wanted to say something. I do think if I tried very


hard to understand. . . . Tell you what, Iím going to make a test. Watch me.

Ootsie-wootsie . . . look at me . . . (You see, heís looking at me, see the concentration in his eyes?) Tell daddy . . . ootsie-wootsie . . . tell . . . daddy . . . what you . . . think . . . of . . . modern . . . statesmen?

Nurse! Nurse! Take this brat away . . . . Damn it all, my new suit . . . .

Well . . . come to think of it, old chap, that was quite an intelligent reply. . . . Wasnít it, now?


SOURCE: Karinthy, Frederick [Frigyes]. “My Baby” [translator unknown], Lilliput, vol. 6, no. 1, issue no. 31, January 1940, pp. 21-23, 20 (photo).

Note: The translator is probably Lawrence Wolfe, as this translation is identical to the one in the volume Soliloquies in the Bath, translated by Lawrence Wolfe, illustrated by Franz Katzer (London; Edinburgh; Glasgow: William Hodge and Company Limited, 1937), pp. 11-15.

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