The Persistence of Memory
Baker & Taylor
A veteran of the secret war in Angola and Namibia, Paul Sweetbread reflects on how his life was affected by turbulence and apartheid, from his mother's removal from a Chekhov play and his education in the government's version of history to his forced appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"Always warm-hearted, sometimes comic, ultimately damning."J. M. Coetzee "I was enthralled by [Tony Eprile's] gorgeous prose, his genius for transforming pain into art, and not least, by the fiercely comic gift of his unforgettable, and unforgetting, narrator," writes Margot Livesey about this long-awaited first novel. Eprile fuses a searing political and cultural satire with a haunting coming-of-age story to render South Africa's turbulent past with striking clarity. Paul Sweetbreadcursed with a perfect memory in a country where amnesia is endemicreflects on his traumatic past: a doting mother plucked from a Chekhov play, authoritarian schoolteachers who spouted the government's version of history, and the violence lurking beneath the civilized Jewish world of Johannesburg in the twilight of apartheid. As the novel builds to a harrowing conclusion, Sweetbread, a veteran of the secret war in Angola and Namibia, is forced to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with astonishing results.
Blackwell North Amer
In The Persistence of Memory, Tony Eprile fuses political and cultural satire with a coming-of-age story to render South Africa's turbulent past.
The novel opens in the early 1970s. Its hero, Paul Sweetbread, a young boy in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, discovers that he is endowed with the "poisoned gift" of a perfect memory. This is a dangerous thing to have in a society where the official story is everything. His teachers spout the government's sanitized version of history, and most of the white population seek safety in what Paul describes as the "national dysmnesia, the art of the rose-colored recall." By remembering, Paul finds himself unwittingly revealing the cruelties that underlie the pleasant blandness of suburban life in a time of political upheaval, the difficulties of being Jewish under Afrikaner nationalism, and the dark secret behind his father's tragic death. He is soon at odds with his authoritarian teachers, his schoolfellows, and even his doting mother, a character seemingly plucked out of a Checkhov story.
Following the completion of high school, Paul is conscripted into the South African army, and is soon plunged into the secret wars in the deserts between Namibia and Angola. Paul encounters the full range of human cruelty and discovers his own complicity in the political system he abhors. The brutal ramifications of his actions continue to haunt him, and, in one of the novel's most astonishing twists, Paul appears before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to reconcile his harrowing past and uncertain future.
The novel provides a portrait of apartheid in its waning years. We see a South Africa that casts a dark reflection on the American heart that cannot be ignored.
A veteran of the secret war in Angola and Namibia, Paul Sweetbread reflects on how his life was affected by turbulence and apartheid, from his mother's removal from a Chekhov play and his education in the government's version of history to his forced appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A first novel. 20,000 first printing.
New York : W.W. Norton, c2004
Branch Call Number:
297 p. : map ; 25 cm