Memorandum: A Story with Paintings | General Fiction
Marlene van Niekerk
Human & Rousseau
In this beautiful and unusual book about a hospital experience the text and visual images offer parallel narratives that resonate poignantly with each other.
Adriaan van Zyl’s series of more than 20 paintings portrays a patient’s experience from waiting room to ward giving a quietly disturbing view of the soullessness of hospitals in general.
Marlene van Niekerk’s accompanying story is a narrative by JP Wiid, a lonely man who is diagnosed with cancer of the liver just before his retirement. The night before a scheduled operation he starts writing a “memorandum” about an experience he had during his first stay at the hospital: sharing a ward with two enigmatic men in a state of postnarcotic euphoria, he overheard their strange conversation, one which was to have a profound effect on his life. He writes how, in the ensuing four months, he becomes a regular visitor to the library, anxious to learn more about the diverse concepts he had been exposed to for the first time. Everything new which Wiid learns about the world comforts him and helps him to accept his fate.
Most importantly he makes a friend for the first time: an eccentric but very helpful librarian. While writing the memorandum, Wiid makes a life-changing decision: not to have the operation the next day. He chooses instead to make the rest of his life worth living by filling it with knowledge about cultures, structures, histories, literature and music. In the process he discovers his true self – and his true vocation.
“a brilliant concept in these superficial times … nothing less than a personal journey of discovery” said Hettie Scholtz, presenter of the book programme on KykNet’s Kunskafee