Jannah Loontjens


An Exploration of My Conscience

A subtle, philosophical exploration of the fear of other people’s judgement

Poet, essayist, novelist and philosopher Jannah Loontjens, mother of two growing children, decides not to celebrate Christmas with her mother this year. Afterwards she feels enormously burdened: how should she tell her? And where do those stubborn, everlasting feelings of guilt (about her lover, her children, that one glass of wine too many, her own body – the list goes on) actually come from?

She decides to explore, with the help of philosophers, writers and theologians, her own conscience, analysing those damned pangs of guilt to their core, fearlessly peeling them back. She examines those moments in her past when she has felt unnecessarily guilty and when it truly has been a matter of guilt.

In the end, she comes to the realisation that feelings of guilt arise from a fear of others’ judgement. ‘My guilt often appears to be a mask, behind which fear lurks, fear of other people’s judgement. Fear that makes me feign that everything is fine. This pseudo-contentment obstructs the path to honesty, and tenderness.’

Apart from all of the philosophical and psychological theory, Guilty is above all a confession, a confession about what went wrong in the writer’s past.


Inspired and literary, Loontjens takes the path to reconciliation with herself.

NRC Handelsblad

Jannah Loontjens

Jannah Loontjens (b. 1974) is a philosopher and writer. Her earlier novels include Good Luck (2007), How Late (2011), Actually (2014) and But Then Again. Her work has been translated into Danish and Hungarian.

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Schuldig. Een verkenning van mijn geweten (2020). Non-fiction, 240 pages.

Themes: philosophy

Sample translation

English (PDF document)



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